The largest local on-line music-sharing Web site, Kuro.com.tw, has enlisted the help of a seasoned political campaigner to protest a plan by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Taiwan to sue the Web site and its subscribers for downloading music without the permission of the copyright holders.
Campaign expert Brian Wu (吳祥輝), convener and initiator of the "MP3 Users Surrender Alliance" (MP3使用者自首行動聯盟), said he can mobilize 2 million digital-music file sharers to turn themselves in at the nation's police stations and thus clog the legal system to protest the music industry's actions.
IFPI's lawsuits are the result of US diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, Wu claimed.
The US and other governments regularly complain that Taiwan does not protect intellectual property rights (IPR) effectively.
"They [IFPI] have hijacked the Government Information Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Office, forcing the government to listen to them," Wu said.
IFPI intends to demonize the 2 million MP3 users in Taiwan, and 300 million worldwide, Wu said.
Kuro provides a platform on which registered members can swap audio or video files for a monthly fee of NT$99 per person.
IFPI claims Kuro has infringed the copyrights of its members by allowing people to download music that they had not paid for. It therefore filed several lawsuits against Kuro and some of its members earlier this year. Police then launched a crackdown on Kuro members in June.
IFPI has also asked Kuro's Internet service provider, HiNet, to end its contract with the site.
Campaigner Wu says the law favors the music industry. "The law we have now allows only the large recording companies to dominate the market, giving them the opportunity to exploit singers and customers," he said.
Wu declared war on the IFPI, threatening to choke local courts.
"Since we are violating the Copyright Law, we will surrender to the police. When 2 million MP3 users here surrender together ? let's see what the nation's judiciary system will do," Wu said.
Kuro's lawyers say that the site is doing nothing wrong and that it is merely a search engine, which is a neutral technology.
"It's ridiculous to prohibit the use of a copy machine because somebody uses it to make illegal copies," said Lee Chung-teh (李宗德), an attorney at Lee, Tsai and Partners. "We realize that a few Kuro members are illegally selling music downloaded from this site, but most members make reasonable use of this software. Partly illegal does not mean the whole site is illegal."
Last month, Kuro offered to increased its monthly fee by NT$50 per person and pass this on to the music industry as a form of royalty payment. The music industry rejected the offer.
"Its' ridiculous... It's like somebody stole my property, sold it for cash, and then told me I can get a share of the spoils," said Robin Lee (
IFPI had been willing to reach an agreement with Kuro, but Kuro was indifferent to the protection of the music industry's rights, Lee said.
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