Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 10 News List

New front in piracy war

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government is targeting peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing operators as it opens its latest battlefront in the war on piracy because copyright abuse on the Internet is worsening, according to a Ministry of Economic Affairs official.

"The battleground is shifting to mp3 and downloaded files," Jack Lu (盧文祥), deputy director general of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said at an intellectual-property-rights protection seminar yesterday in Taipei.

"We are going to force kuro.com.tw (飛行網) and the music industry to sit down and talk and discuss cooperation and Internet licensing," Lu said.

In August, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Taiwan filed a lawsuit against kuro.com -- the nation's largest music-sharing Web site with around 500,000 subscribers -- for allowing its members to share music files to which it holds the rights without paying royalty fees.

But Kuro yesterday claimed that the music industry has refused to discuss the payment mechanism with it since July.

"I don't think any cooperation between us and the music industry can be built before the lawsuit comes to an end," Kuro spokesman Philip Wang (王立文) told the Taipei Times.

Originally, the company proposed charging its subscribers another NT$50 royalty fee to pass onto the record labels on top of a NT$99 monthly fee it currently charges. The company also agreed to pay a certain amount of compensation to record companies.

The industry rejected the offer, Wang said.

"Taiwan has lagged behind advanced countries like the US and those in Europe in keeping up with technological trends," Wang said, citing a ruling by US Federal Court in Los Angeles, California, in April that some file-swapping software was legal.

Record labels and movie studios in the US have appealed the ruling.

Another IPO official was unwilling to comment on whether P2P network operators and software developers such as Kuro are violators of the newly amended Copyright Law (著作權法), but she did point out that online file trading is illegal under the law .

"People distributing content via the Internet to others without obtaining permission from copyright holders is a form of infringement," said Margaret Chen (陳淑美), director of IPO's copyright department.

At yesterday's seminar, Iain Grant, head of IFPI enforcement, said there is no clear effort by the government to stop Internet piracy.

"Taiwan is now becoming an Internet piracy haven ... it appears that no particular government agency has taken responsibility for monitoring Internet piracy or enforcing copyright legislation," Grant said.

Using the music industry as an example, Grant said that Taiwan's legitimate market in recorded music has dropped dramatically in value from US$363 million in 1997 to US$286 million in 1999 and US$162 million last year.

In response, Chen said that a Criminal Investigation Bureau task force is taking charge of cyber crimes, including copyright law violations, and it takes time for them to monitor and investigate illegal Internet activities.

As for a suggestion from Grant that the Copyright Law be revised to cover encryption and other technical protection devices, Chen said her office currently has no plans to revise the law.

"I understand the US and other countries are still not satisfied with the law, but we need time to evaluate the effect of it before rushing to into drafting another version," she said.

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