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Website loses case over MP3 downloads
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-26 08:02

A domestic MP3 website has to pay compensation of 160,000 yuan (US$19,000) to two Hong Kong-based entertainment companies for copyright infringement, the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court has ruled.

The website - www.chinamp3.com - well-known for providing MP3 downloads, will now be required to stop infringing on intellectual property rights of the Hong Kong Go East Entertainment Co and Sony Music Entertainment (Hong Kong), according to a judgment in the first instance made by the court over the weekend.

The judgment was made according to the Copyright Law and a judicial interpretation issued by the Supreme People's Court over Internet-related copyright lawsuits, the court said.

Entertainment industry insiders say the judgment will encourage more music producers to safeguard their rights against illegal online MP3 downloads.

Bai Nian'en, the lawyer representing the accused Beijing-based Shiji Yuebo Scientific Co, which owns the website, said there will be an appeal to a higher court and the judgment was not accepted as final.

The website provided downloads for 35 songs by famous singer Kelly Chen, whose copyright is owned by Go East, and 11 songs by Lo Hau Yam, who is distributed by Sony Music.

"The two Hong Kong companies never authorized any person to use them online," the court verdict said.

But Bai claimed that the website only provided a link for downloads, instead of direct download services.

"We did not intentionally violate the intellectual property rights of the two entertainment companies, so we need not shoulder responsibility for rights infringement," Bai said.

Judge Liu Yong said that the accused website's MP3 download service provided not only links to downloads, but direct download services.

"As a large-scale professional music website, the accused is subjectively wrong," Liu said.

The judge said he believed that the court's decision to confirm it was illegal to provide online links to MP3 downloads would help regulate online linking behaviour.

The record industry was happy about the decision.

Famous domestic music producer Song Ke said the result was a milestone in the entertainment industry's development.

Former vice-president of Warner Music, Song said Warner and other major domestic music producers had never brought MP3 websites to court before the court decision at the weekend.

"This is because MP3 websites were mainly created by music fans in the past and at the time we thought it was not that bad," he said.

"But the current condition is quite different. They (website operators) even intended to make money from the websites and are violating our copyright in broad daylight," Song said.

He said he expected that more entertainment companies will follow the Hong Kong companies that won the court case and fight against copyright infringement over MP3 downloads.

Song, as the managing director of newly-established Taihe Rye Music, said that besides MP3s, discs, tapes, and ring tone downloads for mobile phones would also be focused on in future efforts to safeguard intellectual property rights.

Wang Ziqiang, spokesperson for the State Intellectual Property Office said earlier that anyone who provides music downloads online without authorization would be held to be responsible according to law.

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