October 2003

Internet, Record Labels

Three Australian men face jail after pleading guilty last week to infringing copyright in what the Australian recording industry believes is the world’s first criminal prosecution for online music piracy.
Until now, legal actions against music websites such as Napster, KaZaA and Aimster have relied on civil law (see Law Updates above). The three defendants, all twenty years of age or under, last week pleaded guilty to infringing the copyright of music giants Universal Music, Sony, Warner, BMG , EMI and Festival Mushroom Records. Police arrested the defendants in April after raiding their homes in Sydney following a joint investigation with Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), a record industry-funded watchdog. They face up to five years’ jail and $60,500 in fines for illegally distributing up to $60 million worth of music on a website called “MP3 WMA land”.
In the UK, the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 and Trade Mark Act 1994 both provide for civil and criminal sanctions. Jail sentences can extend to five years in the Crown Court with unlimited fines (see September 2003 Law Updates and April 2003 Law Updates for examples). Whilst traditional piracy such as bootlegging and distributing illegally copied CDs has resulted in criminal sanctions, it now seems likely that website operators and indeed Internet Service Providers will be liable to prosecution.


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