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Canadian record labels appeal P2P ruling

A court said file-swapping was OK in Canada. The music business objects.

The Canadian Recording Industry Association on Monday appealed a court ruling in which a judge ruled that peer-to-peer file sharing was legal in Canada.

Like its American counterparts, the Canadian group is trying to sue file-swappers who are trading copyrighted music online. But in March, a court blocked the label's trade group from obtaining the identities of alleged file traders, saying that trading music over programs like Kazaa did not appear to be illegal.

The record labels group said the March ruling had put their industry--and other copyright holders such as movie producers and software companies--in jeopardy. They're asking the Federal Court of Appeal to reverse the lower judge, and let their lawsuits proceed.

"The recording industry is very vulnerable right now," CRIA President Brian Robertson said. "I think there is widespread concern from most owners of intellectual property."

Canadian courts and regulators have proved consistently troublesome in the record labels' war on peer-to-peer services. With the appeal, the record industry group hopes to remove the impression that Canada has become a legal haven for activity that is viewed more strictly in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

Late last year, Canada's Copyright Board sent a first warning signal to the industry, saying that it believed using file-swapping services to download music--if not upload it--was legal.

When the CRIA later tried to sue 29 individuals, first seeking their identities from their Internet service providers, a court went even further in the course of dismissing the action. Sharing music on an online network did not appear to violate Canadian copyright law, Judge Konrad von Finckenstein wrote in a March decision.

"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," Finckenstein wrote. "Before it constitutes distribution, there must be a positive act by the owner of the shared directory, such as sending out the copies or advertising that they are available for copying."

The CRIA brief filed Monday contends that the court should have let the group pursue the file swappers' identities, and that the act of uploading copyrighted files without permission does constitute illegal distribution of the works.

Reply comments are due on the brief in 30 days, after which the Federal Court of Appeal will set a date for arguments.