Music industry copyright enforcers have taken thousands of pounds in compensation payments from illegal file sharers, it was announced today.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) this morning revealed it has achieved 23 settlements (of 26 suits set in motion in 2004) - some at up to £4,500 - from file sharers across the UK, and has initiated an additional 31 cases across eight different networks.

The 23 filesharers who have settled are aged between 22 to 58. The BPI alleges they were distributing anything between hundreds to thousands of files over the Internet. It adds that the 23 include, "people from every walk of life, from a student to the director of an IT company to a local councillor."

Age is no protection

While avoiding being specific, a statement from the industry group seems to suggest that the BPI is happy to litigate against minors. In full this statement reads:

"Given that people have settled with us and undertaken to the High Court not to do it again, we don't see any advantage in dragging them through the press. However some of the account holders were parents and – looking at the files they were distributing - it's highly likely that they settled on behalf of their children.

"The alternative would have been to put their children through the ordeal of a possible court case. Most parents would not want to put their children in that position."

We will settle where we can

BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson said: "Unauthorised filesharing is against the law. It effectively steals the livelihood of musicians and the record companies who invest in them. We will not hesitate to protect the rights of our members and the artists they represent."

BPI General Counsel Geoff Taylor said: "These settlements show we can and we will enforce the law. No one should be in any doubt that we will continue to do so."

Taylor added: "We have no desire to drag people through the courts. So we have attempted to reach fair settlements where we can.