An Australian court has upheld a ruling against a website operator that provided a search engine through which users could illegally access MP3 files.
The ruling could have implications for other internet companies
The Federal Court in Canberra backed a previous copyright ruling involving Australian web firm mp3s4free.net.
By providing links to websites which enabled illegal downloads, mp3s4free had effectively authorized copyright infringement, the court said.
The ruling could have implications for search engine websites such as Google.
Stephen Cooper, the operator of mp3s4free.net, had argued that his website provided a similar function to Google.
However, Federal Court Judge Catherine Branson said Mr Cooper's assumption that Google's activities in Australia do not result in infringements was "untested".
Internet users' group Electronic Frontiers Australia warned that the ruling could "create significant uncertainty" for many internet firms.
"If Google's search engine links to material which infringes on copyright and this material was accessed by Australians, then there is potential for legal action," said the group's chairman Dale Clapperton.
The action against mp3s4free.net comes amid growing concerns within the global music industry about website operators that link to sites offering illegal downloads.
Last month, leading Chinese web search engine Baidu.com was cleared of copyright infringement by a Beijing court.
The firm had faced a lawsuit from music companies after posting links to sites offering illegal music downloads.
The action against Mr Cooper in Australia was brought by a firm representing major music labels including Universal Music, EMI, BMG and Warner Music.
Mr Cooper was ordered to remove his website and pay the court costs of the music companies.