Spanish Judge Dismisses Internet Music-Piracy Case

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A Spanish judge has dismissed a case against a man who shared music files on the Internet, saying he committed no crime because his aim was not to make money.

In a ruling made public Thursday, Judge Paz Aldecoa of No. 3 Penal Court in the northern city of Santander said that there was "no talk of money or any other compensation beyond the sharing of material available among various users."

"No offense meriting penal sanction has been committed," the ruling said.

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The state prosecutor's office and two music distribution associations had sought a two-year sentence against the 40-year-old man, whose identity the court asked not to be revealed.

The prosecution accused the man of violating copyright laws by downloading albums from Internet file-sharing systems and then offered them to others through e-mail and chat rooms.

But the judge said a guilty verdict "would imply the criminalization of socially accepted and widely practiced behavior in which the aim is in no way to make money illicitly, but rather to obtain copies for private use."

Promusicae, an entity representing the Spanish music industry, said in a statement that it would appeal judge Aldecoa's ruling.

Antonio Guisasola, president of Promusicae, said that peer-to-peer downloading of music and movies was "in any case illegal and in set circumstances could be considered a crime."

The national news agency said it was the first time a judge had made such a ruling in Spain, but this could not be independently confirmed.

Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar had said he expected the ruling would be appealed.

He added that while the area of copied artistic material for private use had yet to be properly defined in legal terms, artists' rights must be protected as much as possible.

"Certain attacks must be taken seriously, especially those for lucrative ends," he said.