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Recording industry group sues over MP3

March 29, 1999
Web posted at: 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT)


by Tom Diederich

(IDG) -- An international recording industry group is suing a Lycos Inc. affiliate for alleged copyright infringement in a case focusing on a controversial compression technology that allows fast download of CD-quality sound files over the Internet.

The London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) yesterday said the legal action against Oslo, Norway-based Fast Search & Transfer ASA (FAST) was its latest salvo against Internet piracy. The industry group said the lawsuit was also the first to target a search engine operator.

FAST last month launched a searchable database containing more than 500,000 Motion Picture Experts Group, Audio Layer 3 (MP3) files. The software was then licensed by Waltham, Mass-based Lycos, which now claims to have the "world's largest MP3 site."

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The IFPI alleges that FAST's search engine "encourages massive systematic copyright piracy by searching all MP3 files worldwide and then storing direct links to those files in a database."

"FAST's activities are a major obstacle for all those independent, new companies and artists who are looking to pioneer a legitimate online music market," the group said in a statement. "Extensive investigation of the files that are made available through the FAST search engine found virtually no legal MP3 files."

FAST and Lycos didn't return phone calls for comment by deadline.

Barry D. Weiss, a lawyer at Cooley Godward LLP in Boulder, Colo., who is familiar with the MP3 debate but isn't affiliated with the IFPI's suit, said providing tools designed solely to facilitate copyright infringement or unlawful access to copyrighted content violates U.S. law. Unauthorized cable TV decoder boxes are a good example, he added.

"On the other hand, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Sony Betamax case several years ago, technology that has substantial non-infringing uses cannot be outlawed simply because pirates might also use the technology for infringing activities," Weiss said. "Search engine technology generally has non-infringing uses. The question here is whether it has been tweaked and edited to facilitate pirating."

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Secure Digital Music Initiative
Recording Industry Association of America

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