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MP3 raid official stand-down

Call it a publicity stunt gone wrong

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The copyright watchdogs have stood down in Taiwan, as government officials weighed in behind the students whose rooms were searched and computers confiscated in the name of intellectual property during the recent MP3 copyright raid on National Chengkung University (NCKU).

The first shot across the bow came from Education Minister Ovid Tzeng, who sent out an open letter addressing students and promising that the Ministry would defend their rights.

"I will absolutely fight for the rights of students regarding the incident of the police searching the Chengkung student dorm," the Taipei Times quotes him as saying. "I will ask attorneys to help the students settle any legal disputes stemming from this incident."

Meanwhile, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) watchdog group has softened its rhetoric considerably.

"Only when we know whether the downloaded files are the property of our member record labels will we decide whether we'll take any action," IFPI official Robin Lee said yesterday.

On Friday, IFPI mouthpiece Li Jui-bin had fairly gloated over the dorm searches and indicated to reporters that his organization was behind the controversial police action.

According to our sources, the IFPI has since denied that it inspired the authorities to act against the students. Additionally, the Taiwanese chapter of the IFPI is said to have had its Web site hacked, though we were unable to confirm this at press time. The site at www.ifpi.org.tw has been unavailable throughout much of the holiday weekend, however; and the main IFPI site on Saturday deleted all information related to the Taiwanese local office and Web site, perhaps to discourage angry phone callers, hackers and drive-by shooters.

Justice Minister Chen Ding-nan said Monday that the search and seizure of NCKU students' property was legal but violated internal protocol. Not the most courageous wording, all right, but better than a total whitewash.

One hopes that this will be the last of it. The IFPI, which was, and now isn't, behind the whole affair, certainly taught everyone a lesson. ®

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