Watchdog to Pursue Charges Against Israelis Sharing Music Files

Music industry watchdog IFPI Israel announced on Thursday that it will pursue charges against Israelis who share music files over Internet.

The music federation's enforcer, Motti Amitai, told Haaretz that the lawsuits in Israel are part of a wider global fight against music downloads.

He said copyright violation steps against surfers would only be pursued as a last resort, once all other channels had been exhausted.

IFPI has yet to decide on a deadline for filing charges, but Ynet, the online news site of the Yedioth group, says the date is June 2005.

At first IFPI will begin with a media campaign targeting surfers, while negotiating with the Internet service providers. The campaign's purpose will be to present the industry's version of music sharing.

Amitai hopes the ISPs will understand the role they play as platforms for the illegal exchange of files. The ISPs, meanwhile, insist they cannot know what sort of files wend their way through company servers.

"They have pretensions of being Highway Six," scoffed Amitai. "They see a truck taking the road but don't know what it contains." He did not say with IFPI might do if the ISPs refuse to cooperate.

Meanwhile, the organization is targeting lax legislation too. Current law does not define whether the crime involved in sharing files is criminal or civil.

One option the organization considered was to pitch legislation levying tax on Internet use, as tax is charged on blank CDs.

Asked whether the record companies might lower their prices, Amitai explained that is their personal prerogative. By nature, record companies constantly reexamine their pricing, he said, but Israel is plagued by pirating. With illegal downloaders and pirates swarming, it is hard to lower prices, he said.

The music industry worldwide has suffered from sliding sales, and Israel is no exception, he said. And buyers shouldn't gripe: in Israel, legal CDs are among the cheapest in the world.