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Norwegian student fined for MP3 links

Court navigates gray area between speech and theft

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Norwegian student Frank Allan Bruvik has been fined $15,900 for providing links from his website, Napster.no, to MP3 files hosted elsewhere, the Associated Press reports.

The Court found that he had violated copyright law by helping netizens to locate forbidden files. In other words, by linking, Bruvik was assisting in an illegal act.

An appeals court earlier had found that he did not violate copyrights because he did not host, or "publish", the files, but merely made reference to sites where the files were already accessible. Those who had actually published the files are the ones liable:

"The Court of Appeals finds that copyright infringement violating the rights of the copyright holders were committed when the works were made accessible for the public by those who uploaded the files to an open network of computers."

Bruvik could not be contributing to an illegal act, because the illegal act had already been committed when the files were published, the court reckoned. He merely assisted in downloading, which is not illegal:

"Bruvik did, however, contribute, by publishing his links, to playing or copying the music files from the uploader's web page. But this must be regarded as contribution to the act of the downloader. Such downloads for private use are not illegal, and cannot justify a claim for damages according to the requirements in the Copyright Act, Section 55."

The High Court reversed the appellate decision, and left the case as it was decided by the original district court. ®

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