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CRIA files appeal in song swap case

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Monday, July 12, 2004

CRIA files appeal in song swap case


Canadian Press

TORONTO -- The Canadian Recording Industry Association, which represents the country's major music producers, filed its appeal arguments Monday hoping to overturn a decision last March that protected the identities of people who copy music online.

In a document filed with the Federal Court of Appeal, the organization said Federal Court Judge Konrad von Finckenstein erred in his interpretation of the country's copyright laws and overlooked some aspects of evidence presented.

The judge "failed to apply the correct legal tests to the matter before him," reads the association's 31-page appeal document.

Von Finckenstein made "a number of sweeping but erroneous conclusions regarding the Copyright Act," it continues.

In his March 31 decision, von Finckenstein said that uploading songs to shared folders on a home computer was permissible under the law because the songs weren't actively being distributed to others. He compared the action to allowing photocopy machines in public libraries which are filled with copyrighted books.

He dismissed CRIA's request to compel five Internet service providers -- Shaw Communications Inc., Rogers Cable Communications Inc., Bell Canada, Telus Communications Inc. and Videotron Ltd. -- to disclose the names of 29 people allegedly distributing music.

The judge said that under privacy laws the music association had no legal entitlement to those identities, which are hidden by online aliases.

The case is important for the music industry because without the names it can't go ahead with lawsuits against people who make copies of songs without paying for them.

"We are contending that the activities that took place do constitute distribution of other persons' copyrighted works," explained general counsel Richard Pfohl. "Canadian copyright law does not allow the sort of activities that took place."

In its legal brief, CRIA alleges that copyright laws were broken by the 29 people who "operate their computers to make copies of great numbers of the appellants' copyrighted sound recordings."

The association argues the Copyright Act gives a song owner the sole right to authorize its reproduction. By putting songs in a shared directory, the computer user is inviting others to copy or burn the tracks, CRIA says.

The case has attracted worldwide attention as many countries, among them the United States, have started suing downloaders and uploaders for breaking copyright laws.

CRIA's appeal is being bolstered by the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association and a coalition of software developers. The two groups, which claim to have similar property right issues as music makers, have applied to be heard by the court on the appeal.

The Internet service providers have 30 days to reply to the appeal document. A court date will then be set for the appeal to be heard. CRIA hopes a decision will come down by the end of the year.

Another possible solution available to the industry is to lobby Ottawa to have copyright law clarified in the wake of new technologies such as peer-to-peer networks. Prime Minister Paul Martin himself said at this year's Juno Awards that he wouldn't let the music industry be jeopardized by technological advances.


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