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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 16:23 GMT
Net cafe to appeal against ruling
Easyinternet cafe
There are Easyinternet cafes dotted around the UK
The Easyinternet cafe chain has been found guilty of copyright infringement for allowing customers to download music from the internet and copy it onto to CDs.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) launched the legal action after learning the company permitted music copies to be made for a fee of 5.

The High Court judgement in London follows an 18-month legal wrangle with the chain built by entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of the Easyjet airline.

But Mr Haji-Ioannou has signalled his intention to appeal against the judgement.

He told BBC News Online he believed the judge sitting in the case had ignored a defence just because it would "open a can of worms" for the music industry.

Ceased

The court still has to decide on penalties, with a figure of up 1m compensation being sought by the BPI and its member music labels, including Sony and EMI.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou
Mr Haji-Ioannou also founded Easyjet

Easyinternet cafe, a division of Easygroup, told the court it had ceased the commercial service of downloading copy-protected music in September 2001.

As a result, it argued it should not be held responsibility for what its customers did while using its computers.

But judge Justice Peter Smith rejected this defence.

Mr Haji-Ioannou said Easyinternet had also put forward the argument that downloading music was no different to recording a favourite television programme to watch later, which is covered by copyright law.

"I believe the judge side-stepped the issue because it would have opened a can of worms for the music industry, throwing it into disarray, but that is not a good reason," he said.

He wants to see how the act would be interpreted in a higher court, even considering the House of Lords as the final destination for any appeal.

'Excessive'

Speaking after the ruling, BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said: "We are delighted that we have won this ruling, which sets an important precedent in support of authorised licensing (music distribution) services.

"Illegal copying jeopardises the livelihoods of artists and song writers, as well as putting at risk the thousands of jobs directly and indirectly created by the recording and publishing of music."

Easyinternet has called compensation claims "excessive".

The BPI launched the legal action following an investigation at Easyinternet cafes in eight cities in the UK which found hundreds of music files on computer hard drives.

The music industry in both the UK and the US is clamping down on the downloading of copyrighted material from the internet, blaming the practice for a slump in CD sales.

See also:

08 Jan 03 | Entertainment
22 Jan 03 | Americas
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