Aust Internet provider denies link to free mp3 site

Internet service provider Comcen yesterday maintained that it has never been involved in the operation of the controversial Web site

Internet service provider Comcen yesterday maintained that it has never been involved in the operation of the controversial Web site Comcen made its stance clear during the ongoing trial against the operators of the Web site and the Internet service provider over alleged music copyright infringement issues.

Liam Bal, director of E-talk Communications and Comcen, took the witness stand yesterday to clarify their involvement with the operation of the Web site run by Stephen Cooper.

In his affidavit, Bal said both E-talk and Comcen had not been involved in the operation of or hosting of the mp3s4free Web site. Comcen did host the Web site but "acted upon ordinary commercial terms according to the usage and custom of participants in the communications industry."

The record companies 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.

However, Bal claimed that both companies are "not aware of the geographical location of and the file extension identifying the electronic location of the alleged infringing recording or files."

E-talk and Comcen are also "not aware of the identity of the persons involved in the technical operation of the Web site, the Web site design, content development, database development or content maintenance."

Bal said the companies are "not aware of the existence of infringing recordings or files or of the identity of any person alleged to have such recordings or files".

He also denied allegations that the Internet provider derives revenue from the operation of Bal claims that Comcen's revenue is "constituted by way of a charge at market rates for the supply of services" to Cooper's Web site "but otherwise has no entitlement to any revenue derived from the operation of the Web site".

Bal said yesterday that Comcen provided access to computer hardware simply as "storage space" for Cooper's Web site. However, no mp3 files were found in the computer during the investigation.

Bal said they currently have "no intention to re establish their arrangements and relationship with Cooper" nor do they have intentions to have future arrangements, especially if the Web site is found unlawful in court.

Comcen entered into an arrangement with Cooper to advertise the provider's logo in the mp3s4free Web site in exchange for free hosting services. In mid 2002, Bal said they maintained the Comcen logo on the mp3s4free Web site, but changed the link to E-talk's URL.

Bal denied allegations that they gave Cooper free hosting services because of the "high traffic" that the Web site was getting due to the illegal mp3 files. Bal added that although mp3s4free's traffic was high relative to other Web sites, it was not the highest-trafficked site hosted by Comcen.

Questioned by the applicant's counsel on why they gave free hosting services to mp3s4free if not for its high traffic, Bal said it was Comcen's "company policy" to put their logo on a Web site when they have a chance, as it constituted free advertising.

Bal said that to his knowledge, Comcen gave free hosting services to more than a dozen Web sites for the same deal which they had with mp3s4free. He added that they even gave the same services to charity organisations to get more exposure. Bal said they tend to provide free hosting services in exchange for free advertising especially for companies and individuals without money and regardless of traffic.