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Australian man, ISP found guilty of piracy

Major record labels in Australia win a legal battle against a man and his ISP for alleged music piracy.

Major record labels in Australia have won a legal battle against a man and his ISP for alleged music piracy.

Stephen Cooper, operator of a Web site called MP3s4free.net, was found guilty Thursday of copyright infringement by Australia Federal Court Justice Brian Tamberlin.

Although Cooper didn't host pirated recordings per se, the court found the resident of the state of Queensland breached the law by creating hyperlinks to sites that had infringing sound recordings.

This is the first such judgment against hyperlinking in Australia.

Tamberlin found against all other respondents in the case, namely Internet service provider Comcen; Comcen employee Chris Takoushis; Comcen parent company E-Talk Communications; and Comcen and E-Talk director Liam Bal.

In October 2003, the record companies, which included Universal Music, Sony, Warner and EMI, alleged that Cooper cooperated with Bal and Takoushis to increase traffic to the ISP and boost advertising revenue.

Subsequently, the court was told Cooper was unaware he may have infringed copyright law, while E-Talk and Comcen asserted that it didn't know of Cooper's actions.

In handing down his judgment Thursday, Tamberlin said: "I am satisfied there has been infringement of copyright?I won't make formal orders as yet. But since there's been infringement?the respondents must pay the applicants' costs."

Outside the Sydney court, Music Industry Piracy Investigations general manager Michael Kerin said the verdict sends a strong message to ISPs.

"This is a very significant blow in the war against piracy," he said. "The court has found against all the respondents. It sends the message that ISPs who involve themselves in copyright infringement can be found guilty?The verdict showed that employees of ISPs who engage in piracy can be seen in the eyes of the court as guilty."

Cooper was not present in court. His legal counsel, Bev Stevens, said the verdict was "extremely disappointing."

Steven Deare of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.