The record industry won a victory Thursday against illegal online music swapping in Hong Kong as a court ordered four Internet service providers to reveal the names of 22 people who uploaded copyrighted music onto Web sites. The move, sought by seven record labels, including Universal, Sony BMG and Warner Music, paved the way for legal action against the 22 suspected offenders to seek compensation. In his decision, Hong Kong Deputy High Court Judge Jeremy Poon said "protection of privacy is never and cannot be used as a shield" to enable copyright violators to break the law.
Ricky Fung, chief executive of music industry association IFPI (Hong Kong Group) said the 22 suspects were targeted because they were heavy violators and some had uploaded music not yet released on the market.
"If an album is being distributed everywhere before it's officially released, how can singers make a living? How can composers make a living?" Fung told a news conference.
He dismissed concerns about Internet freedom. "This is about setting the precedent that it is illegal ... to share files without authorization of the corporate owner," he said. While no online music piracy offenders have been sued in Hong Kong, Fung said 20,000 such cases have been launched in other regions. He said the cases have resulted in defendants paying an average of US$3,000 (Ђ2,445) in compensation to rights holders.
Hong Kong, a major producer of Chinese-language entertainment content that has been hurt by piracy, is taking a more aggressive approach toward protecting copyrighted material. Last year, the government successfully prosecuted a user of the online file-sharing program BitTorrent, reports the AP. N.U.