March 31, 2004

Just In From Canada [3:04 pm]

Judge: Sharing music via networks legal in Canada

Making copyrighted music available for sharing on a computer network is not illegal in Canada, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday, handing the record industry a sharp setback in its international fight against file swappers.

Canadian record labels had asked the court for authorization to identify 29 alleged file swappers in that country, in preparation for suing them for copyright infringement, much as the Recording Industry Association of America has sued more than 1,500 people in America.

But the judge denied that request. In a far-ranging decision, the court further found that both downloading music and putting it in a shared folder available to other people online appeared to be legal in Canada.

“The mere fact of placing a copy on a shared directory in a computer where that copy can be accessed via a P2P service does not amount to distribution,” Judge Konrad von Finckenstein wrote.

Nothing online that I can find yet at the Federal Court of Canada WWW sitehere’s where the decision will eventually appear. For some background, CRIA’s press releases are here

Slashdot: Music Industry Loses In Canadian Downloading Case. The source article cited there includes the following:

Some lawyers were saying the music industry might have hurt its case through legal sloppiness, Akin said.

“They really didn’t have their t’s crossed and their i’s dotted. They would likely go back and assemble the evidence the judge said was missing. The judge said clearly there’s some tests that have to be met, and the record industry failed to meet those tests.”

Once they do that, the industry can resubmit its case. Until then, Canadian online music traders are free to keep swapping songs, Akin said.

Other articles: Toronto Star–Court rejects music copyright suit

“No evidence was presented that the alleged infringers either distributed or authorized the reproduction of sound recordings,” von Finckenstein wrote in his 28-page ruling. “They merely placed personal copies into their shared directories which were accessible by other computer users via a P2P service.”

He compared the action to a photocopy machine in a library. “I cannot see a real difference between a library that places a photocopy machine in a room full of copyrighted material and a computer user that places a personal copy on a shared directory linked to a P2P service,” he said.

CNews: Judge: File swapping not illegal

Update: see this later entry for the opinion and more news.

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