EasyInternetCafe faces fines over music burning

The British Phonographic Industry wants EasyInternetCafe to pay a £100,000 fine, because its users have been downloading copyright music onto CDs

EasyInternetCafe is fighting off an attempt to make it pay a six figure penalty because it allowed customers to download copyright music from the Internet and burn it onto CDs at its branches.

An EasyInternetCafe spokesman told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) -- which represents the UK's music industry -- had tried to fine the firm £1 million when the practice was first exposed.

EasyInternetCafe refused to pay £1,000,000, and the two parties are currently haggling over how much should be paid. If agreement isn't reached soon then the matter could yet come to court, although both sides are thought to be keen to avoid the cost of litigation.

According to EasyInternetCafe, the problem arose because its high street Internet café's gave users access to CD writers. "In the early days, customers could burn CDs at EasyInternetCafes. Our terms and conditions didn't allow people to make illegal copies, but even though we didn't allow the burning of MP3 files onto CDs it was happening," the EasyInternetCafe spokesman said.

EasyInternetCafe claims it offered the BPI its full assistance once it was confronted about the activity.

"We let the BPI see our hard drives so they could assess the extent of the problem, and we have removed CD burners from all our stores. However, we don't believe their assessment of how much music was being downloaded and burned to CD is accurate," explained the EasyInternetCafe spokesman.

After seeing its proposed fine of £1,000,000 turned down, the BPI dropped the penalty to £100,000 -- still too much for EasyInternetCafe, which is offering just £26,000.

"We're fully aware that litigation costs a lot of money, and both sides are keen to avoid spending a lot of money on legal bills. We're prepared to pay something to avoid the cost of litigation, but we don't want to be taken for a large sum of money," said the EasyInternetCafe spokesman.

He added that the BPI has given EasyInternetCafe until 14 August to agree to pay £100,000.

The BPI did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but on its Web site it claims that CD-Rs containing MP3 files are often sold at computer fairs.

According to the BPI, "the sale of CD-Rs containing MP3 files ripped and copied from commercially available albums will always contravene the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, will very often contravene the Trade Marks Act 1994 and, in some circumstances, contravene the Trade Descriptions Act 1968."

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