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Aussie students escape jail for online music piracy

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Australia's first criminal trial for online music piracy has ended with two students each receiving suspended 18-month jail sentences.

Charles Kok Hau Ng, 20, and Peter Tran, 19, ran a music-swapping site called MPW3/WMA Land. Available for download were 390 CDs, some 1,800 tracks. The pair charged no money for their service, but were responsible for big losses to the record companies. According to the Prosecution, the losses to piracy attributable to the site was AUS$60m. According to the Australian music industry the loss was somewhat higher - AUS$200m. Hmm. Not very scientific, is it?

The assumption is, of course, that each illegal music download is a sale lost. Such an assumption can be more safely be made in the case of, say, Office XP, illegally downloaded by a business. But it simply does not hold water, in the case of music. People consume music for free - through the radio, through CD swaps, through samples. Much more rarely do they pay for it, although often enough to bankroll a multi-billion dollar music industry.

A third defendant, Tommy Le, 21 was sentenced to 200 community service. His crime was to upload four compilations in which he showed off his DJing skills. ®

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