Hyperlinking to copyrighted material is illegal: Australia

, posted: 20-Dec-2006 09:42

The Federal Court of Australia has upheld last year's ruling against Stephen Cooper who ran MP3s4free.net, and the ISP who hosted the site, for copyright infringement.

Cooper's site didn't host any copyrighted material. Instead, it linked directly to recordings hosted on other servers, many of which were copyrighted.

Judge Branson of the Federal Court bench wrote:
I conclude that Mr Cooper infringed the Record Companies’ respective copyrights in sound recordings by in Australia authorizing internet users to do acts comprised in those copyrights, namely make copies of the sound recordings. I also conclude that Mr Cooper infringed the Record Companies’ respective copyright in sound recordings by authorizing operators of remote websites to communicate those sound recordings to the public in Australia.

Likewise, he found that Cooper's ISP was guilty of authorising and "countenancing" copyright infringements. A copy of the judgement can be found here.

The ruling affects people in Australia mainly and could mean users there will get persecuted if they link to copyrighted material from any website. Whether or not the ruling affects overseas site operators and ISPs linking to Australian content that may or may not be copyright isn't clear at this stage.

Australia's copyright legislation has recently come under scrutiny as the already strict laws will be further tightened up. Lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia says the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 will introduce strict liability offences for copyright, making the country the only common-law one in the world to have these.

If the Bill passes in Australia, the EFA says the liability offences will carry maximum penalties of A$6,600 but the police will be able to hand out infringement notices with spot fines of A$1,320.

The most controversial aspect of the Bill is a new section that makes it a criminal offence to posses a device with intent of making an infringing copy. Said device can be a VCR, iPod or other MP3 player, or just a personal computer. Even though making a copy isn't self an offence, the intent of doing so is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to A$65,000 fines.

EFA also points out that singing "Happy Birthday" in public would be a criminal offence, as it would be an unauthorised performance of a copyright song. Likewise, using your mobile phone to record a public performance for your own use would also be illegal.

Other related posts:
Over 1,000,000 torrents of downloadable books, music and movies
Megaupload and the US grand jury
Filesonic disables file sharing; due to MegaUpload?

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