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Music biz slams Oz Net piracy plea bargain

Defendants will be let off the hook, it claims

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The music industry this week accused Australia's legal system of "watering down" the first criminal Internet piracy case because it believes the three defendants will receive sentences far too lenient for the AUD60 million ($41 million) it is alleged their actions cost the industry.

The claim came after three Sydney students - Peter Tran (20), Tommy Le (21) and Charles Ng (20) - pleaded guilty to offering the contents of 390 CDs via a Napster-style online service, Australian IT reports.

Australia's Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) organisation claims the three struck a deal to lower their sentence if they agreed to plea guilty. It alleges that Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) officials sought such a plea bargain because its case was deficient.

"The case was watered down to nothing," said MIPI spokesman Michael Speck. "We see this as a sophisticated international massive agreement to rip off copyright - the DPP's version of it is a lowly street-level offence."

He added: "These guys will be getting away with the biggest rip-off of copy in Australian history, and they will probably get away with a slap on the wrist."

MIPI wants the New South Wales court to force the students to pay the "hundreds of thousands of dollars" it claims to have spent during a three-month investigation of the three students' activities.

It also wants the trio's computer equipment to be forfeit, as specified under Australia's federal Copyright Act.

This week MIPI applied to the court to be heard on behalf of the three students "victims" - ie. the music industry - when it came to sentencing them. Le, Tran and Ng will be sentenced on 10 November.

Magistrate John Andrews turned the application down, claiming that it was "totally inappropriate" for an organisation such as MIPI to have a say in sentencing since they are not a disinterested party to the case. ®

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