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Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Music firms try to 'gag' net café
Easyinternetcafe (under its old name)
Easygroup says it is not responsible for its user's actions
Music industry leaders are launching a court bid to stop an internet café chain from talking publicly about negotiations to settle a £1m claim over downloading music.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Sony Music Entertainment want Easyinternetcafé - part of budget airline founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou's Easygroup - to keep their discussions confidential.

At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Collins ordered the application for a "gagging" order should be heard in full next week.


Music downloading should be legalised - it's far cheaper than putting CDs into little boxes

Stelios Haji-Iaonnou
Until a year ago, customers at the chain - formerly known as Easyeverything - were able to download music and burn it onto CDs in-store.

But the BPI and its members said the process infringed copyright, and demanded £1m in compensation - a claim Easygroup calls "excessive".

Sony and the BPI say it is "a matter of public policy" that parties in legal proceedings be encouraged to compromise in disputes - and that compromise would be much less likely if confidential matters were given publicity.

Easygroup sent employees to the Royal Courts of Justice dressed in orange boiler suits calling for "the right to free speech".

The demonstrators accused the music industry of "milking the consumer" and presiding over a "CD rip-off".

Stelios Haji-Ioannou said the company was offering £30,000 for a UK settlement, and £50,000 for a global case - while the music industry was now seeking £100,000 and £380,000 respectively.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou
Mr Haji-Ioannou also founded Easyjet
He said the company had put up signs in his store telling customers not to burn CDs - and it could not be held responsible for their disobedience.

But he added that he would be more than willing to pay licence fees to the music industry for allowing his customers to download music.

"I think that music downloading should be legalised. It's a far cheaper way than putting CDs into little boxes," he said.

"You can't stop the consumers doing it, so you might as well legalise it. They should take it away from bootleggers and turn it into a legitimate business."

Mr Haji-Ioannou said the "gagging" order came about because the music industry was embarrassed by its £1m demand becoming public knowledge.

See also:

26 Sep 02 | Entertainment
23 Sep 02 | Technology
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