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FTC: Download Site Falsely Claims It's All Legal

A federal court has temporarily banned a Los Angeles-based Web site from claiming that its service lets users legally share copyrighted files, the government said Wednesday.

The Federal Trade Commission said Cashier Myricks Jr. (search), doing business as MP3downloadcity.com, has been barred from suggesting that his $24.95 tutorial and referral service enables users to legally download copyrighted music files, video games and "movies still in theaters."

According to the FTC, it doesn't.

Myricks' lawyer, Beverly Williams, said Wednesday that her client intends to comply with the law, and he has already begun making changes to his Web site.

A temporary restraining order was issued Sept. 27 by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The FTC is seeking to make the ban permanent, negotiate refunds for consumers who feel they were misled, and require that the defendant notify people who use the service about legal consequences of sharing copyrighted material.

The FTC charged that the Web service advertised on Web sites and sent out misleading claims like: "Best of all, people are not getting sued for using our software. Yes! It is 100 percent legal" and "Download and Watch DVDs and Movies Still in Theaters."

The commission said thousands of consumers have bought the service, which is a tutorial with referrals to free file-sharing software programs like those from Kazaa (search) and Grokster Ltd. (search).

Myricks' site itself claimed Wednesday that " Napster's Number One Replacement Software is Back!" and "Now You Can Burn, Download MP3s, and Make CD's Free."

At the bottom of the site, a link through the word "Legal" led to a page that said, "File sharing is not illegal so long as you abide by all relevant copyright laws. Sharing copyrighted material without the permission to do so is illegal." The page further advises users to stay legal by removing copyrighted material from their shared folders.

Some artists allow their music to be copied freely, but for the vast majority of recorded music, special permission is necessary.

Williams, who is advising Myricks, said it is difficult for small companies to follow the rapidly changing laws that govern evolving technologies. She said her client is learning and is in negotiations with the FTC and the court.

"When you have the small companies without the aid of expert advice on intellectual property interests, then they get confused and they go awry," Williams said, describing Myricks as "a very small fish."