Rules action were not illegal as no money changed hands.

A Spanish judge has outraged the music industry by acquitting an Internet user who offered and downloaded digital music on the Internet.

Paz Aldecoa, the judge at the No. 3 penal court in the northern city of Santander, acquitted the 48 year-old man known only by his initials, J.M.L.H.

The defendant admitted downloading and sharing music in Internet, making private copies of his own CDs and sending the CDs by ordinary mail or by messenger service to other Internet users.

But Aldecoa ruled this was not illegal as no money changed hands at any point.

The Spanish public prosecutor's office, local music industry trade body Promusicae, and the Spanish entertainment software publishers and distributors association Adese had demanded custodial and financial penalties.

They had called for a two-year sentence and fines totalling €25,561 ($32,462) for copying music via download, for obtaining digital private copies of records that belonged to him and for offering to exchange his collection with other users in chats and by E-mail.

Promusicae had tried to prove the accused man was selling the music he sent out on CDs. Still, Promusicae president Antonio Guisasola declared in comments to the media that private use is not a legal excuse for downloading music for free and without authorization.

And Spain's culture minister Carmen Calvo and justice minister Juan Fernando Lopez-Aguilar both publicly criticized the court ruling. Speaking to the media, Promusicae's Guisasola insisted the judge was wrong and said today (Nov. 3) it had lodged an appeal against the judge's decision.

Anti-copyright campaigners have applauded the judge's decision as confirmation that peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing without a profit motive is legal.

Victor Domingo, director of Internautas, Spain's Internet users' association, said in a public statement today that the court decision was "absolutely natural."