An Australian Court has ruled that linking to copyrighted music can be illegal.
MP3s4free.net, a now-defunct Web site run by Queensland resident Stephen Cooper, included links to mostly copyrighted MP3 files hosted on other servers. An earlier ruling held that the site violated Australian copyright laws, and on Monday a three-judge appellate panel upheld the decision.
Reaction to the appellate panel's decision was almost universally scornful.
Many commenters cried out that the ruling could make much of the Web illegal, a point the judges noted as well, with one judge writing that the "Mr Cooper's assumption that Google's activities in Australia do not result in infringements of the Act is untested."
Blog community response:
"To read this judgment--as I said, particularly the broader one of Branson J--you could be forgive for wondering how much the honourable members of the court actually use the Internet. It's not way the law is described, it is the fact that the judgments can make comments about the potential liability of a website operator for copyright infringement for the most mundane acts - like, oh - linking to another website - without any acknowledgment that that might be an issue, or a problem, or an even slightly undesirable development in the law."
"The idea that it's the technology creator's job to build in protections against infringement in how they design a tool is also extremely problematic in placing the burden on the technology makers. It's a guaranteed recipe for slowing down innovation by putting in place both chilling effects against innovation and additional development costs. It's setting up a path for reduced innovation and great stagnation within the tech industry -- and eventually the entertainment industry as well."
"Bloggers, MySpacers, and anyone else who links to copyrighted material without permission is fair game for legal action, a court in Australia has ruled. Not 'hosts,' not 'uploads,' not 'downloads,' but 'links to.' If that precedent were adopted worldwide, there would be no Google, no Wikipedia, no internet as we know it."