Public awaits the verdict of the music-sharing battle

Court proceedings to sue those who share their music collections with millions around the world got under way in a Toronto courtroom yesterday. The Canadian Recording Industry Association asked a Federal Court for permission to smoke out music pirates from the protection of Internet Service Providers.

CRIA argued the country's five biggest Internet service providers should name people who upload a large number of music files. After legal arguments by all the parties, Justice Konrad von Finckenstein adjourned the proceedings until March 12. Last week the music industry filed motions against 29 John and Jane Does who it alleges are high-volume music traders, storing thousands of MP3 music files on their hard drives.

Yesterday, CRIA started to work through the courts to learn the identities of those people, currently identifiable only through IP numbers.

It wants Bell Canada, Rogers, Shaw, Telus and Videotron to hand over names, home addresses and e-mails, currently protected by privacy laws, informs &to=' target=_blank>

The association was hoping to get a federal court order yesterday that would force Bell Sympatico, Rogers Cable and three other service providers to hand over subscriber information identifying the accused, the first step toward filing lawsuits against each music-swapper.

Justice Konrad von Finckenstein, weighing the complexity of the issue, concluded that more information was needed to understand whether the Internet service providers could technically comply with the order and what impact this would have on federal privacy laws. Calling it a "fascinating" case, he adjourned the proceeding for 24 days but ordered the five service providers to preserve all historical customer data related to the request.

The music industry is forcing a major showdown between intellectual property and online privacy rights. Yesterday's proceeding was the first step in what could become a lengthy courtroom drama pitting the $1 billion recording industry against Internet users.

CRIA wants the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the alleged pirates, but all it has so far are the IP addresses that are assigned to their online computers. It notified the service providers last Wednesday that it would be seeking, through court order, to link those IP addresses with subscriber information. The only Internet service provider not in court yesterday was Montreal-based cable firm Vidéotron Telecom Ltd., which previously said it would not oppose the motion by CRIA, reports &to=' target=_blank>

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