Record Labels, Music Publishers, Internet
A 22 year old Taiwanese man (Mr Chung) who shared music files over the Internet without the permission of record labels was forced to make an apology and agree to ‘cease and desist’ from file sharing in a settlement hailed by the music industry yesterday as a landmark in the fight against online piracy. “This case proves that peer-to-peer file-sharing infringes copyright,” International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) Taiwan branch secretary-general Robin Lee told the Taipei Times in an interview. As in other territories, the music industry in Taiwan claims that peer-to-peer web sites break the law as they allow subscribers to download music via the Internet without paying royalty fees to the rights holder. But so far only ‘proactive’ file swapping sites such as the ‘old’ Napster have been effectively shut down. There is continuing litigation worldwide against sites such as KazaA and Grokster with mixed results so far (seehttp://www.musicjournal.org/03dontshootthemessenger.html)
Taiwan has now followed the approach adopted by the RIAA in the USA and has brought an action against an individual. “We will use this case to let everybody know that users of peer-to-peer web sites are breaking the law, and we will bring more cases to court if peer-to-peer (file swapping) doesn’t stop,” Lee said. The IFPI in Taiwan, which represents 12 local and international record companies, has launched three cases against individuals and two against the peer-to-peer web sites (Ezpeer.com.tw and kuro.com.tw). The decision against Chung is the first result in the court cases. Last week, the prosecutors office of the Panchiao District Court decided to defer prosecution in the case against Ezpeer subscriber Chung after he admitted that he infringed the copyright law and agreed to publish an apology in the local press. The apology appeared last Friday.Chung also signed agreements that he would not use peer-to-peer websites again, or share music files without the prior permission of rights holders. However, it should be noted that this is not a final court decision. The news comes as Taiwan’s music industry struggles to survive against mass piracy. Taiwan’s legitimate market in recorded music has dropped dramatically in value from NT$12 billion in 1997 to NT$4.9 billion last year, according to IFPI figures. The two file swapping websites, Kuro and EzPeer have 500,000 and 300,000 members respectively, and each charges a monthly subscription fee. However, Taiwan does have a legitimate download run by iBIZ Entertainment Technology Corp. Chunghwa Telecom’s Hinet Internet service; computer giant Acer Inc have also negotiated deals for music sites and five other companies are in discussions the IFPI announced.
As of 4 December 2003, Taiwan prosecutors have filed criminal charges against the country’s largest peer-to-peer service, Kuro. The prosecutor’s office filed charges under the Copyright Law against Kuro’s management team. Separate charges have been brought against a number of subscribers to the service. IFPI Taiwan marked the announcement of the indictment by asking that Kuro cease its operations immediately. Kuro is a centralised peer-to-peer service, which charges users to distribute unauthorised copies of music files among themselves. Using a modified form of the original ‘Napster’ technology, it is in essence a ‘Napster for money’. More than 30,000 users make available over five million music files for copying on the Kuro network at any one time. The subscription service, launched in 2001, claims to have half a million paying customers. The problem is that nobody in the creative chain is compensated; only the service itself makes money. IFPI Taiwan filed a criminal complaint with the criminal prosecutor earlier in the year, alleging that Kuro was knowingly aiding and abetting copyright infringement, for profit.
IFPI Chairman and CEO Jay Berman said: “This indictment is fully consistent with court decisions in other countries including the US, Japan and Korea, that have held similar P2P services liable for copyright infringement. People need to understand that legal action can and will be taken against those who distribute copyrighted work without the permission of the creators. Everyone involved in the cycle of music creation is being adversely affected by this illegal activity, and it is having a devastating effect on the ability of the industry to invest and sustain the careers of new artists.”