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CPS drops case against alleged music pirate

The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped its case against a teenager who was arrested and charged with illegally uploading music files to a file-sharing website.

Matthew Wyatt, then 17, of Stamford, Lincolnshire, was arrested by Cleveland police in 2007 for allegedly uploading three record albums and a single to Oink, a members-only BitTorrent file-sharing site.

Oink founder Alan Ellis was found not guilty of fraud in January after Oink was found to have helped download 21 million music files. Ellis was the first Briton to be charged with illegal file-sharing.

Wyatt was charged with distributing copyrighted material that would prejudice the copyright holder, a criminal offence that carried a maximum 10-year custodial sentence.

According to lawyers for Wyatt, at no stage was he alleged to have been the original uploader of the music. David Cook, of Burrows Bussin, said the fact was that Wyatt found four music files on one publicly accessible music site and moved them to Oink.

Commenting on the CPS's decision to drop the case, Cook said the case had always appeared to a civil rather than a criminal case.

Cook said this was the first time he had seen a case where the Crown Prosecution Service acted as proxy for a private prosecutor.

"Every indication we had was that this should have been a civil, not a criminal, case," he said. "I think their 11th hour decision not to proceed means that that is probably true."

The CPS did not respond to requests for comment.

Cook said it was unlikely there would be further action either from the Wyatts or the authorities. He said the Digital Economy Bill was trying to change the law to bring in a "three-strikes" notification and take-down process against online copyright pirates and unlicensed websites that hosted copyright material.

"But with Matthew, it was bang! Straight in to face a 10-year jail term. It was completely disproportional," Cook said.


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