Even if you don't have any copyright-protected material on your blog or website you can still be breaking the copyright law. That's the findings of an Australian court ruling.

Stephen Cooper, who runs the mp3s4free.net website, was found guilty of infringement of copyright laws by an Australian court. The ISP that hosted the website was also found guilty, according to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Mp3s4free.net did not carry any copyright-protected material on its own site. Instead it operated as a search engine from where users could find copyrighted songs and films to download for free. The Australian Federal Court found that this was equal to other filesharing crimes.

At least 36 record companies had sued Stephen Cooper, among them Universal Music , Warner Music , and Sony BMG .

Ms Sabiene Heindl, general manager of Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), told the Sydney Morning Herald similar action could be taken against individuals who used the internet to link to copyright-protected material.

It means that bloggers and website owners should think twice before linking to a YouTube clip, song or image on a blog or MySpace web page.

"We don't make any distinctions between big websites or small websites", she said, adding that MIPI would consider individual blogs on a 'case-by-case basis as to whether it would be appropriate to take action'.

The decision by the Australian court could have implications for general search engines too. Google and other search engines also link to copyright-protected content, although among lots of other kinds of material.

But Heindl told the newspaper that MIPI would not be going after Google in the same way it sued mp3s4free.net.

"Mp3s4free was different in the sense that it actually catalogued MP3 files that were infringing copyright material - Google doesn't do that," she said.

The full court ruling can be found here .