Tue, Apr 17, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Students get support in MP3 case

STAFF WRITER

Kao Chiang, right, president of National Chengkung University, and Chiang Hsing-ti, center, chairwoman of the university's student union, meet with Vice Minister of Education Fan Sun-lu yesterday to appeal for the protection of students' rights.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Government officials yesterday threw their support behind students who had their computers seized last week for allegedly downloading illegal MP3 music files.

Minister of Education Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗) yesterday wrote an open letter to the nation's college students, saying that the ministry will make every effort to defend students' rights.

A police search of the dorm rooms of 14 students at National Chengkung University (成功大學) in southern Taiwan for evidence of copyright infringement has sparked panic and outrage among university students. Investigators say the students had downloaded MP3 music files from the Web.

"Any action of prosecutors and the police should be taken with prudence and kept within limits with respect to academic freedom and the autonomy of universities," Tzeng said.

"I will absolutely fight for the rights of students regarding the incident of the police searching the Chengkung student dorm," Tzeng added. "I will ask attorneys to help the students settle any legal disputes stemming from this incident."

Tzeng said the ministry hopes the public will have access to and enjoy sharing information on the Web as long as copyrights are respected.

"Current regulations are hardly sufficient, considering what is needed in these `E-times.' We need to cope with disputes regarding the use of Internet resources with more patience and intelligence," the minister said.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an umbrella group representing the record industry in Taiwan, also seems to have softened its attitude toward the students as more and more advocates of students' rights have spoken up in recent days.

"Only when we know whether the downloaded files are the property of our member record labels will we decide whether we'll take any action," Robin Lee (李瑞斌), IFPI secretary-general, said yesterday.

Vice Minister of Education Fan Sun-lu (范巽綠), who presided over the first meeting of an intra-governmental task force formed over the weekend to address the problems arising from the raid, has emphasized that students should not forget to exercise self-discipline while using the Internet.

Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) yesterday said the search of National Chengkung University by prosecutors was legal, although it may have violated internal guidelines.

Chen also said that the ministry's policy was to give priority to serious "black gold" crimes in its crackdown on intellectual property rights violations, saying he never asked prosecutors to target university students in the investigation.

According to ministry guidelines issued in November, when prosecutors plan to conduct search and seizure raids at "special places," they have to report to their divisional head and prosecutor general. The latter will then report to his or her superior prosecutors' office.

The "special places" listed in the guidelines include government departments, secret military sites, the Legislative Yuan, county and city councils, institutions of higher education and offices of the media.

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