Music Industry Sues 459 European Song-Swappers Thu Oct 7,11:41 AM ET Technology - Reuters Internet Report By Bernhard Warner, European Internet Correspondent LONDON (Reuters) - The piracy-battered music industry will for the first time sue British, French and Austrian music fans, including a French school teacher, as it intensifies its legal crackdown on Internet song-swappers. The drive singles out users of such popular file-sharing networks as Kazaa, eDonkey, and Gnutella (news - web sites) where Internet users can download and exchange songs for free. Trade group the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) said on Thursday it filed 459 criminal and civil lawsuits against some of the most prolific users of Internet file-sharing networks in the UK, France and Austria. The number includes a second wave of suits in Germany, Italy and Denmark. The lawsuits were filed on behalf of some of the largest music labels, including EMI, Warner Music and Universal Music. Rather than going for people simply downloading songs for their own use, they specifically target "uploaders" or those who share their music collection with others, thus creating a vast market in free tunes. TEACHER, CHEF, MECHANIC Among the 28 Britons accused of illegal file-sharing, one amassed a cache of 9,000 music tracks, the IFPI said. French police, meanwhile, said a teacher in his late 20s was found to have thousands of songs downloaded onto his computer. Under a new French counterfeit law, the man faces up to three years in jail and a 30,000 euro ($36,900) fine. His trial begins in December. Also, 50 other French citizens face lawsuits, French music officials said. "Generally they are young working adults, with an average age of 25 to 30," said Marc Guez, managing director of French trade body Societe civile des producteurs phonographiques. "There is a car dealer, a mechanic, a chef, even the works council of a big French company whose members were using the company's computers for downloading (music)." As with past announcements, music industry executives called the lawsuits a necessary step to woo back music fans from free-file sharing networks, stem declines in CD sales and support fledgling download services such as Apple Computer's iTunes and Sony Connect. "We are taking this action as a last resort and we are doing it after a very long public awareness campaign," said IFPI chairman Jay Berman, adding that their own statistics show 15 percent of file-sharers are responsible for supplying 75 percent of the illicit files to these networks. "These people are not our customers," said British Phonographic Industry chairman Peter Jamieson when asked by reporters of the controversial decision to sue music fans. GLOBAL CRACKDOWN EXTENDED The IFPI warned that more countries will be added to the dragnet in coming months, possibly as early as January. To date, the music industry has announced lawsuits against over 5,700 individuals in the United States since September 2003, and 650 in Europe since March this year. In Britain, music officials said the 28 uploaders have been identified only through their Internet accounts. They are heading to court to get the names and addresses before they can begin the legal proceedings. Criminal and civil court cases are also being filed against 100 alleged uploaders in Austria, 174 in Denmark, and 100 in Germany. In Italy, home to one of the toughest copyright protection laws in the world, police have raided the premises of seven large-scale file-sharers. (Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey in Paris).