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IFPI, UK Cops, Credit Cards Unite Against Unlicensed MP3 Sites


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Continues a pattern of copyright holders trying to choke off sources of revenue for alleged infringing sites.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has announced a new partnership involving it, the City of London Police's Economic Crime Directorate (ECD), and credit card companies MasterCard and Visa to target online services selling unlicensed music.

The way it works is that the IFPI forwards ECD evidence of people acquiring music from an infringing site who then, after verifying the claim, in turn notifies MasterCard and Visa of the illegal activity. The credit card companies then ask the site to produce evidence of the correct licenses to sell the copyrighted music in question or it will cease handling payments to it.

"It is extremely positive for the recorded music industry that the world's largest payment systems are taking steps to prevent their services being abused by illegal websites that infringe the rights of artists, songwriters and producers," said Frances Moore, Chief Executive of IFPI. "Intermediaries, such as MasterCard and Visa, can play a key role in tackling online piracy wherever it originates around the world."

Most of the unlicensed music sites are based out of Russia and Ukraine where royalty payments are considerably lower than elsewhere, and thus rejected by copyright holder groups like the IFPI.

"MasterCard is pleased to support IFPI and law enforcement to help prevent the illegal sale of unlicensed music," said Eileen Simon, Chief Franchise Development Officer, MasterCard Worldwide. "A coalition approach such as this will enable us to prevent our system from being used to carry out this illegal activity and will help protect the livelihoods of artists, legal rights holders and legitimate e-commerce merchants selling properly licensed material."

The move could hurt sites like the Ukraine-based MP3Fiesta, for example, because it specifically advertises that customers can buy music with "safety and guarantee without doubt" because it uses Visa and MasterCard to handle payment transactions. Without them it could make selling music a bit tougher.

"This is an excellent example of how the police can work with different business sectors to effectively tackle the impact of economic crime, in this case music piracy," said Steve Head, ECD's Detective Chief Superintendent. "It demonstrates the benefits of innovative and focused partnership working and I am confident that it will greatly assist in preventing this criminal undermining of the music industry and all of those whose livelihoods depend upon it. We will continue to support initiatives such as this as we seek to develop a broad range of tactics to prevent crime being committed, no matter where in the world these criminals may operate from."

The news is a reminder of a continued effort by copyright holders to pressure credit card companies into cutting off the financial lifelines of alleged infringing sites. last December it was mentioned how the MPAA and RIAA were trying to convince MasterCard to cut off sites like Megaupload and other file-sharing and streaming sites.

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