Wednesday, July 13, 2005

AllofMP3 Fallout Hits German Sites

The German branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) is creating a legal wave from the AllofMP3.com decision and riding it all the way to iRights.info [German]. A wave, since it's sending out warning notices to sites for linking to AllofMP3; all the way, because iRights is arguably an informative website, providing critical but independent background to digital copyright issues. The German IFPI already sent a notice to online magazine Heise demanding a link to AllofMP3 to be removed from one of its articles. The German IFPI bases its demands on the court decision that prohibited the making available of unlicensed music files within Germany by the Russian AllofMP3. In the notice to Heise, similar of that sent to iRights, the IFPI claims:
"By establishing a hyperlink to the Internet page in question you are enabling the acquisition of copyright protected sound recordings of our clients via the illegal download offer. By illegally providing public access you are thereby objectively supporting the illegal dissemination of copyright protected sound recordings [...] or even aiding and abetting such activity."
The IFPI also referred to an earlier case involving Heise, in which the linking to a site that provided circumvention software in a news article was deemed illegal. That ruling was appealed by Heise, and will likely be decided later this month. In the meantime iRights notes that not only did it already take down the link to AllofMP3 before the IFPI sent out its notice, but that the AllofMP3 decision can not yet be legally enforced, since it has not yet been served to the operator of AllofMP3.

The IFPI's tactics are understandable from an enforcement perspective. It is questionable whether the operator of AllofMP3 will stop making downloads available within Germany, let alone if he is able to do so at all. So, while the decision establishes the illegality of AllofMP3's practice under German copyright law, and provides a prohibition thereof, more importantly is its (intended) side-effect: a derived enforcement tool against portals within the German jurisdiction. Overall the effectiveness of this tool may be doubted, and using it against informative/news sites may harm its "public relations" value. A question is how far (private parties like) the IFPI will be allowed to go to (effectively) enforce copyrights. The prohibition of linking is one thing, but there are other, and possibly more effective (technological) measures, such as DNS poisoning. These measures represent different levels of regulation in the internet chain, and raise different legal questions. One can only hope that courts and regulators provide answers that look beyond the direct impact of copyright infringement, and consider the long term influence on the internet infrastructure.
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AllofMP3 decision [German, PDF]
iRights.info press release [German]
Thru Netzpolitik.org [German]

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