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An Israeli technology company that makes popular software for downloading music over the Internet agreed Tuesday to pay $4.1 million to the recording industry for copyright infringement, a significant victory for music labels. Bridgemar Services Ltd., formerly known as iMesh.com Ltd., agreed under a court-approved settlement to change its Internet service later this year to prevent consumers from illegally distributing music or downloading songs. The iMesh software has been downloaded more than 76 million times. Until then, its software — which lets Internet users search for music and video files and download them free in just minutes — will function as it always has. The iMesh service works similarly to the leading Kazaa software from Sharman Networks Ltd., which claims far more users worldwide than iMesh. The settlement, reached in U.S. District Court in New York, represents one of the rare efforts by the recording industry to successfully sue technology companies producing software that allows Internet users to exchange pirated songs and other files, rather than suing Internet users individually. In its lawsuit, record companies alleged that iMesh software helped Internet users illegally exchange “millions (potentially billions)” of songs and sought $150,000 in damages for each song, plus attorney fees. So far, U.S. courts have ruled that software companies aren’t liable when others use their products for copyright infringement. The recording industry has appealed one such ruling in California and a pending Senate proposal by the head of the Judiciary Committee would establish such legal liability for software makers. Bridgemar spokeswoman Connie Connors said it was too early to know whether iMesh customers ultimately will be required to pay for downloaded music, as users of Apple Computer’s popular iTunes service do. That depends on what agreements the company can reach with major labels, she said. The chief executive for the Recording Industry Association of America, the Washington-based trade group for the largest labels, praised the settlement. “The constructive approach of iMesh stands in stark contrast to other file-sharing businesses who thumb their noses at Congress, continue to offload liability onto users and dupe America’s kids into breaking the law,” RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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