German record industry takes on Web piracy

"We have developed a technical model called Rights Protection System (RPS)," association spokesman Hartmut Spiesecke said. "The next step is that we want to start a dialogue with ISPs. ISPs have a duty to block illegal material."

RPS searches for sites that offer illegal music downloads, and develops a "negative list" of Web addresses, he said. The system would be installed at key Internet junctions, blocking users in Germany from accessing such sites, whether domestic or foreign. It would not, however, have any effect on file-sharing exchanges such as Napster or Gnutella.

In a hypothetical scenario, if a user tried to click on such a Web site, a dialogue box would appear with a message such as, "You have just attempted to reach a URL that contains illegal material; access has been refused," Spiesecke said.

Internet users rejected the system as unworkable and without a legal basis. "There are no ISPs that want to install it," said Andy Müller-Maguhn, spokesman for the hackers' group Chaos Computer Club. "It's entirely absurd. Anyway, the Internet is supposed to operate on the basis of free movement of information."

He added, "The legal situation is not at all clear ... private copies are legal under German law."

But Spiesecke said he "massively rejects" arguments based on freedom of information. Downloading music without paying, he said, is "no different than going into a CD shop and taking 10 CDs without paying; it's not freedom of expression, it's theft."

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