University, government users beseige free MP3 site

Users from several universities and government agencies, including the Department of Defence, Monash University, the US Department of Justice and Harvard University, accessed the controversial Web site mp3s4free.net last year, a witness said during a court case yesterday.

Users from several universities and government agencies, including the Department of Defence, Monash University, the US Department of Justice and Harvard University, accessed the controversial Web site mp3s4free.net last year, a witness said during a court case yesterday.

Shane Pearson, an IT consultant, said in an affidavit lodged during the ongoing trial against the operators of the mp3s4free.net Web site and its Internet service provider, Comcen, that he was able to isolate a total of 214, 260 unique hosts within the access log file of the site during a 12 day period in October last year. The mp3s4free.net access log file contains records of the IP addresses or host names used by computers when accessing the Web site.

"The access log file appears to be a log of information recording large numbers of computers accessing the www.mp3s4free.net Web site via the Internet. There are over 5 million separate entries in the file occurring within a period of only approximately 12 days (beginning with the entry on October 5, 2003 and ending with the entry on October 17, 2003)," Pearson said in his affidavit.

Various institutions and government offices were identified during the process. A total of 64 hosts with suffix .gov and 40 hosts with the suffix .gov.au were recorded in the access log file as having accessed the mp3 Web site.

Within the government list, there are host names for Commonwealth government departments such as the Department of Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

There are also host names for state government organisations, such as the Queensland Police, Queensland Treasury Department and the NSW Department of Health.

Aside from that, the access log file also contains host names relating to international government organisations such as the US Federal Aviation Administration, US Food and Drug Administration, US Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US Securities and Exchange Commission, US House of Representatives, and the US Department of Justice among others.

There were a total of 3,519 hosts with the suffix .edu which are recorded as having accessed the Web site. Some of the host names recorded include Australian universities such as the University of Sydney, University of Tasmania, Monash University, University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales.

There are also a number of host names for educational institutions in the United States such as Harvard University, University of California, Los Angeles, Colombia University, Stanford and Yale University.

Using standard Unix commands and techniques, Pearson said he was able to isolate and print certain parts of the access log file in order to count the number of instances of particular types of entries appearing in the file.

Pearson said in his affidavit that the Comcen image has appeared more than 500,000 times and that it has "most likely been displayed on the screen of the user computer in each case" while they access the mp3s4free Web site.

Pearson, however, clarified that the host names accessing the Web site does not necessarily mean the users downloaded songs illegally.

The Australian music industry listed Comcen and the operator of the mp3 Web site Stephen Cooper in October 2003 as respondents in a court case involving alleged music piracy after an 11-month investigation conducted by Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI).

The applicants claim that Comcen benefited directly from the increased traffic on its servers as a result of the unauthorised trade of music files on the mp3s4free Web site, and that the relationship between Cooper and Comcen extended beyond what may be expected from that between a Web site owner and their Internet provider.

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