The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) looked overseas to see what the RIAA were doing to combat illegal filesharing. When they saw teenagers being dragged through the courts to recover the “losses” generated from downloading, they decided to copy the move over here. The first cases were announced last October and came to court this week.

The first scalps were taken at the end of this week when 20 people agreed to pay a range of fines for serial downloading after being identified online as downloading a noticeably heavy amount of music - up to 9,000 songs - and in some cases, hosting for others to download once ripped. On average, individual fines were UK£2,200 with the highest individual payment UK£4,500. Dividing that amount of money with the average internet price for an album of £9 equals a fine of a thousand CDs. Not that the BPI is satisfied with first blood.

"We are determined to find people who illegally distribute music, whichever peer-to-peer network they use, and to make them compensate the artists and labels they are stealing from," said BPI General Counsel Geoff Taylor. 17 of the 20 pirates charged have signed undertakings not to do it again (or maybe they'll just stick to Minidisc from now on, which allows one copy until Sony retires the technology).

"We have no desire to drag people through the courts,” added Geoff Taylor, as a second group of lucky winners were about to be sued. Three of cases are still under negotiation. For once, the BPI has been bluntly honest in saying the cases were more about “deterrent than compensation,” although the fines are expected to return to either record labels or royalty collection agencies for the artists. "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 file-sharing, and to buy music online, safely and legally, instead."

You'll note Mr Taylor made no reference to the humble CD, which many users will be sticking with - it's only 20 years old and only beaten by the best vinyl after all, giving the user the widest amount of ripping options - but it's old hat to record companies who are now flogging their wares online as if they never missed the first illegal wave. The pros and cons of this issue are something to explore in a future feature. For now though, if you want that new Moby single, best head out to HMV or online to your preferred legal download store…