September 8, 2003 8:31 AM PDT

Piracy investigator lauds Australia case

An Australian case in which three men pleaded guilty to online music piracy has "exploded many of the myths" related to copyright infringement, asserts the head of an investigation firm.

Some such "myths" include the view that online copyright infringement is an expression of free speech and that copyright misappropriation is good for the music business, said Michael Speck, head of Music Industry Piracy Investigations.

"Increasingly, courts here and around the world are seeing criminal offenses driven by Internet technologies as no different to other criminal acts," Speck said.

Earlier this month, Tommy Le, Peter Tran and Charles Kok Hau Ng pleaded guilty in the Downing Center local court to breaches of music companies' copyrights. The case involved the distribution of pirated digital music via the MP3 WMA Land site.

The Australian Federal Police charged the three men after a joint investigation with Music Industry Piracy Investigations, which is owned by the Australian Record Industry Association and some of its stakeholders.

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 10. Each infringement carries a maximum sentence of about $39,000 (60,500 Australia dollars) in fines and/or five years in jail.

Speck denied that there was any collaboration between his company and the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), which is fighting a battle against online piracy on a number of fronts.

The RIAA has issued more than 1,000 subpoenas against individuals that it claims are offering copyrighted songs on file-trading networks. The RIAA is also participating in initiatives such as an education and entertainment industry alliance, which is trying to limit the file-swapping tide on university campuses.

He attributed the similar tracks being followed by the music industry in both countries to "best investigative practices."

However, Speck lashed out at three Australian universities--Sydney University, Melbourne University and the University of Tasmania--currently involved in legal action over the music industry's attempts to gain access to records of network usage. The legal action may lead to charges of copyright breaches against staff or students at those institutions.

"We hold no hope that this case will be settled by negotiation," he said. "Those three universities have resisted providing any assistance at all, while the rest of the university population has moved on."

Iain Ferguson of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

 

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