The empty files,are traceable and could lead to lawsuits against individual users...

Major labels have stepped up their war against online piracy by planting “decoys” on free file sharing sites and are considering launching lawsuits against individual users of free services.

It’s thought the tactic was employed byEminem’s label Interscope in the run up to the release of his latest ’Eminem Show’ album.

News agency Reuters reports that large labels are distributing “decoy” files of music and film that are empty to prevent downloading but are traceable.

“Spoofing is just one example of a lawful and appropriate self-help measure available to the labels to respond to the growing problem of peer-to-peer network piracy. It also happens to confirm the adage ‘you get what you pay for,” said a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America.

With an ongoing sales slump that saw a 5% downturn in global sales last year, record companies are increasingly keen to wipe out Internet piracy, which the labels see as the reason for decreased sales.

EMI and Universal have backed plans to sue individual song-swappers, but Warner is wary of the idea as it would involve ostracising potential customers. Potentially, tens of millions of people could be sued, but the labels are likely to target users who store large amounts of music and become a source for on-line trafficking.

However, the labels would need the Internet Service Providers to liase with them in identifying offenders. ISP’s are considered to be unlikely to take on the onerous duty of regulating music swappers, which would provide them with no financial gain and very likely drive customers away.