Music biz appeals Canada file sharing-is-legal ruling

Music to lawyers' ears

As expected, the decision by a Canadian Appeals Court, to refuse legal help in identifying file sharers which appear to be swapping copyrighted works, is being challenged by the Canadian Recording Industry Association. The CRIA filed an appeal last week.

The decision flies in the face of US courts, which although they have resisted a shortcut method for identifying alleged illegal file sharers, have backed the idea that people swapping copyrighted works are breaking the law. The RIAA, America's equivalent of the CRIA, has now taken over 2,000 people to court for file swapping offences, in most cases settling out of court for a fine.

European countries have just begun the same style of copyright actions against file sharers as the US under fresh copyright laws that have been inspired by the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act and pushed through by a US-dominated World Intellectual Property Organization.

The Canadian court said that it couldn't force ISPs to reveal the identity of its clients since what they were doing wasn't against Canadian law, as it was seen as copying for personal use. The CRIA view is that Canada has copyright law, and that law shouldn't allow people to make copies of hundreds or thousands of copyrighted songs and to put them out on the Internet for copying and global distribution.

The CRIA appeal notice suggested that the judge had overreached himself, made errors in law, and errors in his assessment of the facts. Stern stuff, not designed to endear the claimants to the judge.

The ISPs in question, Bell Canada, Shaw Communications, Telus Communications, Rogers Cable and Videotron need to have court orders before handing over personal information, or they themselves would be liable to prosecution under Canadian privacy laws.

The judgment came at the end of March and affected the first 29 file sharing uploaders which are claimed to illegally be posting hundreds of songs on the web. The judge compared the action to a photocopy machine in a library, saying he could not see a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service. A date for the appeal has not yet been set.

© Copyright 2004 Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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