Site at centre of Aussie court battle switched off

An MP3 site at the heart of a court battle between the Australian music industry and an Internet service provider has been taken offline

The Web site at the heart of a legal battle between several music industry behemoths and Australian Internet service provider (ISP) ComCen was taken down this morning.

The takedown comes after Stephen Cooper, the maintainer of the Web site www.mp3s4free.net, gave undertakings to the Federal Court in Sydney on Friday that he would remove the Web site. On Tuesday last week, several music companies took Cooper and ComCen to court over alleged copyright infringements, the first time an ISP has been named as a respondent in such a case.

"We're pleased that it's come down, we asked them to take it down and it's come down," Michael Williams, a lawyer for Gilbert and Tobin who is representing the music companies told ZDNet Australia .

ComCen had refused to remove the site, claiming that since no music files were located on the servers which hosted the site, the mp3s4free.net site was analogous to a directory such as Yahoo.

The parties were due to appear before Justice Brian Tamberlin in court in Sydney tomorrow to debate whether the site should be removed while the case was being heard. As at early afternoon today, that hearing was scheduled to proceed. Regardless, the legal action seeking civil damages against both Cooper and Comcen will continue, according to Williams.

At the heart of the matter is the question of whether linking to copyright infringing material from a Web page is itself an infringing act. The legislation in question was introduced in the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000, which is due for review in March next year.

This Act laid a technology-neutral exclusive right of communication to the public, and the case will come down to how this is interpreted in a court of law.

If the music companies are successful in suing ComCen, more lawsuits are likely to follow, the director of Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) director Michael Speck told ZDNet Australia . He also indicated the music industry would lobby the government to introduce legislation regulating ISPs, and claimed that self-regulation would not work. He compared the current situation with the banks attempting to self-regulate cash transactions in the 1970s and 80s to prevent money laundering -- an unsuccessful effort which saw government intervention through the introduction of legislation.

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