Brisbane-based file-sharing Web site MP3s4free.net was one of the biggest copyright infringing services in the world, the Australian Federal Court heard yesterday (Oct. 25).

Brisbane-based file-sharing Web site MP3s4free.net was one of the biggest copyright infringing services in the world, the Australian Federal Court heard yesterday (Oct. 25).

John Nicholas, who is representing five Australian record companies, told the Sydney court, "The scale of copyright infringement on the Web site is unprecedented in Australia."

Evidence tendered in court revealed that the site had received 191 million hits. More than 136 million files were requested from November 2002 until the site was closed down by a court order in October 2003.

Universal Music Australia, Sony Music Entertainment Australia, Warner Music Australia, BMG Australia, Festival Mushroom Records and 25 other international companies are alleging copyright infringement by the Web site. They are seeking A$500 million ($370 million) in damages from its operator, Stephen Cooper, a former policeman who set up the site in 1998. Cooper's Internet providers, E-Talk (also trading as Com-Cen) and two ISP employees may be liable as hosts.

Cooper's lawyer, Tony Morris QC, dismissed the case as "absurd." He said MP3s4free.net had not contravened copyright law because it acted as a third-party that linked consumers to download sites. "That works the same way as a Yahoo! search engine," he said.

The case is expected to continue throughout the week.

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