A Chicago woman who downloaded songs for free from the Kazaa file-sharing network violated copyright law and has been ordered to pay a $22,500 fine to the record labels. In what appears to be the first U.S. case of its kind, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Cecilia Gonzalez's arguments that she was merely "sampling" downloaded music to see which CDs she might want to purchase and that her sampling was protected under copyright law's "fair use" exception.
Gonzalez's claim that "she obtained 'only 30'--or 'only 1,300'--copyrighted songs is no more relevant than a thief's contention that he shoplifted 'only 30' compact discs, planning to listen to them at home and pay later for any he liked," the court said.
Meanwhile, the masterminds behind Kazaa could face time behind bars in Australia after the record industry initiated contempt of court proceedings, claiming an earlier ruling wasn't adhered to. Record companies allege that Sharman Networks, the owner of Kazaa, didn't comply with an Australian Federal Court order to modify the software to ensure 3,000 keywords would be filtered by Dec. 5.
However, the judge in the case did not appear to be in a big hurry to put Kazaa's owners in jail.
"Contempt proceedings are fairly rare in this court and I've never yet sent anyone to jail," Justice Murray Wilcox said in the Federal Court in Sydney. "I've threatened to a few times, but there's always a first I suppose."
The number of United States households that swap music illegally online has dropped significantly since the Supreme Court's summer ruling against peer-to-peer software companies.
However, the number of actual music files being traded has stayed high, indicating that the most active downloaders remain online. The drop of 11 percent--from June, when an estimated 6.4 million households downloaded at least one music file, to October, when 5.7 million households downloaded at least one file--seems to show that the entertainment industry's campaign against file swapping is gaining momentum. Credit: CNet News