Sharing music files is legal in Canada, the courts declared last night.

The music industry has hit unexpected legal resistance in its international attack against music sharers in Canada. There the courts yesterday declared that file sharing is not a crime under Canadian law.

Justice Konrad von Finckenstein quashed a request that would have allowed label representatives the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) to begin suing file sharers who make music available for others to download. The music labels have 29 Canadians on their initial list.

CRIA took five Canadian ISPs to court in February to make them give up the names and addresses of 29 people it said had shared music using file-sharing applications.

The judge said that downloading a song or making songs available using peer-to-peer is not a crime, so the ISPs should not share the identities of the 29 music fans. He also said the CRIA had not presented strong enough evidence to justify breaking "critical privacy protections".

In December, Canada's Copyright Board decided that downloading songs using peer-to-peer for personal use appeared legal under Canadian law. In Canada, copying for personal use is allowed. Canada's government has a tax on blank tapes, CDs and music players (such as Apple's iPod), revenues from which are distributed to music copyright holders.

According to Cnet, judge Finckenstein wrote in his judgement: "The mere fact of placing a copy on a shared directory in a computer where that copy can be accessed via a P2P service does not amount to distribution,

"Before it constitutes distribution, there must be a positive act by the owner of the shared directory, such as sending out the copies or advertising that they are available for copying."