Sharing copyrighted works on peer-to-peer networks is legal in Canada, a federal judge ruled last week, handing the record industry a sharp setback in its international fight against file swappers.
Canadian record labels had asked the court for authorization to identify 29 alleged file swappers in that country, in preparation for suing them for copyright infringement, much as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sued more than 1500 people in America.
But the judge denied that request. In a far-ranging decision, the court further found that both downloading music and putting it in a shared folder available to other people online appeared to be legal in Canada.
The ruling affects only Canada, but it could have wider repercussions if it stands. “This has certainly stalled (the record industry’s) current round of litigation, and ... thrown into doubt whether there is infringement at all,” said Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor who closely follows Canadian copyright issues.
The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), which brought the case, said it did not agree with the judge’s ruling.
“We are reviewing the decision received today from the trial court and expect to appeal it,” CRIA General Counsel Richard Pfohl said in a statement. “In our view, the copyright law in Canada does not allow people to put hundreds or thousands of music files on the Internet for copying, transmission and distribution to millions of strangers.”
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