Add the French to the war on Internet song swappers.
Facing their first annual sales decline in recent memory, officials from the world's fourth largest music market said they would fight back with lawsuits.
Monday, French music industry trade body SNEP will report that recorded music sales fell 14.6 percent in revenues in 2003 to just under 2.1 billion euros, said Herve Rony, SNEP general manager.
The culprit, according to Rony, is the growth in file-sharing services such as Kazaa and possibly CD-copying by home users.
The French music industry had defied the odds for much of the past decade, growing annually while CD sales in the rest of Western Europe and the United States dip as file-sharing and physical piracy proliferate.
Last year the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), took the controversial step of suing the largest Internet song swappers in the United States, hoping the legal crackdown would act as a deterrent.
The RIAA's sister organizations -- the BPI in the UK and the IFPI, representing music labels around the world -- said earlier this month lawsuits would be inevitable in other territories, perhaps this year.
Rony said that while lawsuits against French file-sharers, or "uploaders," was inevitable, he could not say when. He said there was some urgency though as a number of industry-backed services were set to launch this year, including Apple Computer's.
"If we want to convince consumers to go off the illegal offers you have to take out the stick," Rony said.
French law does not offer the same levels of protection to copyright holders as British and American laws afford. For this reason, Rony said a legal crusade could be hard to stir in France.
"It will be difficult convincing parliament," he said, adding that the French Ministry of Culture had already expressed its support.
SNEP represents roughly 50 independent and major music labels including Universal Music, Warner Music, Sony Music and Bertelsmann's.