The Regional Court of Hamburg has ruled in favor of German collecting society GEMA, which had requested that the court issue an order prohibiting file-hosting service rapidshare.com from making around 5,000 music tracks available on the Internet.

The court fined Rapidshare €24 million ($33.5 million).

"The judgment states that the hosting service itself is now responsible for making sure that none of the music tracks concerned are distributed via its platform in the future. This means that the copyright holder is no longer required to perform the ongoing and complex checks," it was stated in a declaration issued by GEMA.

The court also ruled that the precautions allegedly taken by rapidshare.com and other file-hosting sites were not sufficient to effectively prevent the copyright breaches caused by the service.

"The judgment of the Regional Court of Hamburg marks a milestone in GEMA's efforts to combat the illegal use of music works on the Internet," said Dr. Harald Heker, CEO of GEMA, in a statement. "GEMA will continue to do everything it can to shield its members from online piracy. We are confident that in this way we will be able to reduce the illegal use of the GEMA repertoire on the Internet to a negligible level."

Bobby Chang, COO of RapidShare AG in Cham (Switzerland), commented: "We do not consider the court's decision to be a breakthrough. As other proceedings in similar disputes with GEMA have shown, there is considerable disparity amongst the individual courts in some cases.

"Our experience is that the courts of appeal tend to restrict the scope of the decisions made by the lower courts. For this reason, we think that it would make more sense to work together to provide music fans with the right services at the right price and to open up a new source of income for music-markets on the Internet."

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