It was not in the public interest to pursue its case against Matthew Wyatt, age 20, for alleged online music piracy, the Crown Prosecution Service said today.
CPS Cleveland district crown prosecutor Clare Donaldson, said, "The CPS has a duty to keep cases under review, and every prosecutor applies the code for crown prosecutors when doing so.
"The Crown was ready to proceed with Wyatt's trial alongside Alan Ellis' [who founded BitTorrent file-sharing service Oink] in January, but Wyatt's defence team applied for an adjournment and his case was separated from that of Ellis.
"Ellis' acquittal prompted us to review Wyatt's case again, as much of the evidence in the case applied to both trials. In order to do so, we had to await the defence's statement on how they would approach this case. Once we received it, in early February, we reviewed the case and made the decision to discontinue on public interest grounds following further conferences with counsel and the police.
"The reasons for the decision were that: Wyatt played a relatively minor role in this case; a long period of time had elapsed since the commission of the offence; and, in the event of a guilty verdict, any penalty imposed by the court was unlikely to have been substantial. Taken together, this amounted to a strong argument in favour of discontinuing the case."
Lawyers for Wyatt said he had faced up to 10 years in jail. David Cook of Burrows Bussin said Wyatt had found four music files on one publicly accessible music site and moved them to Oink. At no time had he received evidence that the complainants were the copyright holders or that they had suffered material damage as a result of Wyatt's alleged actions.
The files in question were pre-releases, which are often made available to radio stations and DJs prior to their commercial release for marketing purposes.
Cook said that in any case, this case should have been heard as a civil rather than a criminal action.
A spokesman for the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents British music industry interest, said it was disappointed with the CPS's decision. He said the complaint concerned the illegal distribution of pre-release music. "However, this decision does not undermine the strong case for tackling the serious damage done by pre-release piracy," he said.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) did not respond to requests for comment.