updated 1/12/2005 1:10:47 PM ET 2005-01-12T18:10:47

A South Korean appeals court on Wednesday acquitted the operators of a Korean-language Web site that allows users to share songs free of charge.

Yang Jung-hwan, 31, and his bother, Il-hwan, 35, created Soribada, South Korea's most popular music-swapping Web site, in 2000. Prosecutors indicted them in 2001 on charges of aiding and condoning copyright violations, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

On Friday, an appeals panel at the Seoul Central District Court said those who download songs through Web sites like Soribada violate copy rights.

But the court said the Yang brothers should not be held responsible for copy right infringements that took place on Soribada, which means "Sea of Sound" in Korean.

The Yangs have denied any wrongdoing, saying their service only provides private channels of communication and that they cannot control or monitor users' activities.

In May 2003, a lower court also rejected the charges against the duo, saying prosecutors failed to state how the brothers violated copyright laws or whether a crime had been committed.

South Korean music labels say they lose millions of dollars in album sales because of Soribada, which allows users to search each other's computers for music files and download them.

Such exchanges are particularly popular in South Korea, where 70 percent of homes have high-speed broadband Internet access.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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