Media Release

EFA advises that, whilst this media release discusses the issue of the types of remedies that may be brought by copyright holders, neither this media release nor EFA disputes the proper deliberation and due process of the case. [2 Dec 03]

28 October 2003

EFA condemns music industry "piracy" raids

Electronic Frontiers Australia today condemned the heavy-handed legal action instituted by several major music labels against the operator of an Australian website and his Internet Service Provider.

The website, www.mp3s4free.net [1], was alleged to contain MP3 audio files which infringe upon the copyrights of the record labels, but is in fact a collection of links to other websites on the Internet, and other MP3 files distributed by permission of the Copyright holders.

Music labels named as applicants in the Federal Court action are Universal Music Australia, EMI Music Australia, Sony Music Entertainment (Australia), Warner Music Australia, BMG Australia, and Festival Mushroom Records.

On Friday 17 October, lawyers acting for the music labels raided the house of Stephen Cooper, the operator of the website, and the offices of Mr Cooper's Internet Service Provider, who hosted the site. Anton Piller orders (similar to search warrants) authorising the raids permitted agents for the music labels to seize information including copies of the site itself, and logs of Internet users accessing the site.

"EFA understands that the music industry has relied on a series of specious allegations concerning the content and illegality of the mp3s4free website, to obtain an Anton Piller order allowing them to perform these raids," said EFA board member Dale Clapperton. "In the absence of clear and unambiguous evidence that the website was directly distributing copyright infringing MP3 files, the use of an Anton Piller order against Mr Cooper and his ISP smacks of intimidation and is an unreasonable and unwarranted action."

"Now that their raids have failed to find any evidence that the website was directly distributing infringing MP3 files, the music industry has fallen back on allegations that merely linking to files on other websites, is in and of itself illegal. These claims are not supported by the Copyright Act, or by Australian case law. Using an Anton Piller order based on dubious evidence to launch an almost entirely speculative case in an untested area of law is typical of the heavy-handed bullying tactics employed by the music industry in similar cases overseas. The music labels have intentionally targeted a small Internet publisher and ISP who may not have the legal budget to mount an effective defence against these allegations."

"Recent claims made by spokespersons for the music industry to the effect that Internet Service Providers make up to one fifth of their income from trade in illegal music are completely unsupported, as are their arguments that hosting a website which links to other sites containing MP3 files is illegal."

The Federal Court action seeks declarations that both Mr Cooper and his ISP have infringed the copyrights of the music labels by making and/or distributing copies of copyrighted music, and seeks permanent injunctions and damages against them both.

"In launching this action, the music industry has made the same allegations against both Mr Cooper and his ISP. They are effectively claiming that an Internet Service Provider can be held liable for the content of a website hosted by them, as if the ISP were the author of the site. This flies in the face of recent amendments to the Copyright Act which were designed to prevent this very type of claim against Internet Service Providers."

"This case has major implications for freedom of speech on the Internet. Holding Internet publishers and hosting companies legally liable for the content of other sites that they link to threatens to chill the speech of all Internet users. This case should be of major concern to all Australian Internet users."

-- Ends --

[1] Error in URL corrected 28 Oct 2003.

Below is:
- Background information
- Contact details for media

Background:

Section 39B of the Copyright Act 1968, as amended by the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000, provides protection for Carriage Service Providers from liability because of the use of their services.
http://scaleplus.law.gov.au/html/pasteact/0/244/0/PA000550.htm

Other media coverage of the initial raids:

http://www.zdnet.com.au/newstech/ebusiness/story/
0,2000048590,20279975,00.htm

http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/
0,4057,7631161%255E15306,00.html

About EFA:

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. ("EFA") is a non-profit national organisation representing Internet users concerned with on-line rights and freedoms. EFA was established in 1994, is independent of government and commerce, and is funded by membership subscriptions and donations from individuals and organisations with an altruistic interest in promoting online civil liberties.

Media Contacts:

Mr Dale Clapperton
EFA Board Member
Phone: 0416 007 100
Email: dclapperton at efa.org.au   
Mr Kimberley Heitman
EFA Board Member
Phone: 0439 938 233
Email: kheitman at efa.org.au

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Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc -- http://www.efa.org.au/
URL of this release: http://www.efa.org.au/Publish/PR031028.html
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