IFPI Belgium is suing Belgian Internet service provider and telecoms operator Telenet for hosting file-sharing links on its Web newsgroups.

BRUSSELS--IFPI Belgium is suing Belgian Internet service provider and telecoms operator Telenet for hosting file-sharing links on its Web newsgroups.

The group has asked a Brussels court to close many of the newsgroups, and will seek millions of euros in damages over lost revenue from songs illegally made available by the server.

London-based IFPI general counsel Allen Dixon says the bulk of the files attached to the newsgroups were MP3 music files.

PRIMARY INFRINGEMENT
"This is primary copyright infringement. They are copying files and making them available," Dixon says."IFPI has asked Telenet to take down these newsgroups, but they have refused."

Dixon says this was distinct from the music industry's attempts to shut down file-sharing networks like Kazaa and Morpheus as the newsgroups contain e-mails with files rather than just files.

"They are storing files on their own servers," he says. "And they don't sit there for a nanosecond. They are there for days, weeks and months."

He added that this was not part of an international campaign, but was targeted at just newsgroups. "They could just take them off with a couple of clicks of a mouse," he says.

At the end of January, Telenet had 417,000 broadband customers, and 258,000 telephony customers. According to press reports, U.S. cable operator Liberty Media is close to acquiring a majority stake in Telenet.

IFPI Belgium director Marcel Heymans says that after nine months of negotiations, during which Telenet initially indicated it would cooperate and remove the newsgroups, the ISP claimed it was a mere conduit, and was not liable.

"It is incomprehensible in my mind why they simply cannot shut them down," Heymans says. "We don't want to close all the newsgroups. Out of thousands of newsgroups, about 300 distribute illegal files."

The court is expected to reach a decision next month.

The move comes just two months after four of five majors were sued by Belgian consumer group Test-Achats/Test Aankoop for installing anti-piracy mechanisms in CDs that prevent them being played on car stereos and computers.

The group said that EMI, Universal Music, Sony and BMG Music acted illegally in their efforts to prevent consumers from making private copies of CDs, since this is specifically authorized under Belgian law.