Music fans pay £50,000 for illegal filesharing

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Twenty-three British internet users have agreed to pay record companies a total of £50,000 compensation after admitting distributing music illegally through filesharing on the internet.

Twenty-three British internet users have agreed to pay record companies a total of £50,000 compensation after admitting distributing music illegally through filesharing on the internet.

In the first cases of their kind, 17 men and six women have paid more than £2,000 each on average to settle the claims which would otherwise have gone to court in a crackdown on the filesharing which is costing record companies millions in lost revenue.

Two of the illegal filesharers are paying more than £4,000 to settle their cases with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the record companies' trade association.

The filesharers illicitly made thousands of popular songs available online over what are known as file-swapping networks. The file-swapping services allow people to swap copyrighted music, and other files, between computers.

Another three cases are still in negotiation with legal action remaining a possibility.

The 26 were the first cases to be tackled after the BPI won a High Court order forcing internet service providers to hand over details of people alleged to have repeatedly given away tracks for free. Geoff Taylor, the BPI's general counsel, said yesterday: "We hope people will now begin to get the message that the best way to avoid the risk of legal action and paying substantial compensation is to stop illegal filesharing and to buy music online, safely and legally, instead."

The BPI decided not to name the users after each made an undertaking to the High Court not to repeat the offence.

And it returned to court yesterday to seek orders for the disclosure of the identities of a further 31 illegal filesharers on peer-to-peer networks including KaZaA, Grokster, Soulseek and Bearshare. The cases were chosen on the basis of which users were making themselves obvious by distributing large numbers of songs.

There is evidence that the record companies' crackdown is having an effect. There were an estimated nine million download sales in the UK last year. The BPI claims research shows that illegal activity on what was once the most popular filesharing network, Fast Track, has fallen considerably, with users in January 2005 down 45 per cent from its peak in April 2003.