CNA: 25 new cases of illegal music file-sharing handed over to police

17 Oct 06

The Recording Industry Association of Singapore (RIAS) has found 25 new cases of illegal music file-sharing and downloading. It has filed these cases with the police, in line with international efforts to deter copyright theft. Over 8,000 new cases in 17 countries were also reported on Tuesday. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, an organisation against music piracy, says legal action is being taken against the biggest culprits of South America and Eastern Europe. Over in Singapore, the 25 new cases were reported just days after the police had raided the homes of seven illegal music file-sharers. RIAS says that the new cases involve users who are illegally downloading and sharing music files via international networks like Limewire and Gnutella. In October last year, over 800 instant warning messages were sent to illegal music file-sharers. That number dipped to 32 last month alone. Edward Neubronner, CEO of RIAS, said: "So it's clearly an indication that the majority in Singapore understand and know that these activities are wrong, they are illegal and the consequences can be very dire." Two Singaporean men were jailed four months and three months respectively in February for distributing hundreds of pirated digital music files through an Internet chat program. They were the first to be punished in Singapore for a non profit-making offence under the city-state's Copyright Act. A third was let off with a warning because he was only 16 years old at that time. "The reaction when three were arrested was that: there are so many of us, are you going to catch all of us? Now, after the seven whose homes have been raided by the police, it's clear that everybody is saying, 'ok! it's not fooling around, and I don't think I want to face such severe consequences'," said Mr Neubronner. A media expert believes the new cases will have a chilling effect among online users. Associate Professor Ang Peng Hwa, Chair of Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at the Nanyang Technological University, said: "The volume of downloading will go down at least for a while. You have to see what kinds of penalties are levied on those people who have been charged.....I'm not sure if many people know, but the copyright laws in Singapore are very tough. In fact, they are the toughest in the world right now. We are, for better or worse, leading the world in this area." Liew Woon Yin, Director-General of Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), said: "The provision is actually not meant to target the one or two individuals who download and distribute music. The whole purpose and objective of the Act is to tackle infringers who download music wilfully and to a significant extent. We're of the view that the activities that we've conducted so far have been effective. We can't say that people are not aware of the provisions in the law and people are not aware that it's wrong to infringe somebody else's work." IPOS admits that it's not possible to eradicate music piracy in Singapore. But education is the key. IPOS has been alerting the public about the importance of honouring intellectual property through its advertisements in movie theatres and magazines. And if need be, it says it will step up its educational campaign. - CNA/ir

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