Theage : Kazaa case back in court

Kazaa case back in court
By Louisa Hearn
February 20, 2006 - 11:43AM

The latest chapter in the courtroom battle between Sharman Networks, owner of the Kazaa file sharing network, and the Australian recording industry was set in motion today.

The Kazaa file-sharing service is an internet service that allows users to trade files such as MP3 and movie files and last September Sharman was found guilty in the Federal Court of encouraging users to infringe copyright on the network.

An appeal against the ruling began this week for which the court which has set aside five days.

The court case against Sharman began in November 2004 after 30 music labels in Australia led by Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) commenced legal action. MIPI will also seek this week to appeal five points against Sharman they lost in the original hearing.

“Sharman Networks is determined to resist the record companies’ appeal in this case and bring its own appeal presenting arguments against the record companies’ position. We are confident that the ultimate outcome of this case will be positive for Kazaa,” Sharman said.

When the guilty verdict was first handed down in September, the judge gave the company two months to embed filters in the Kazaa service to prevent it from trading copyrighted music.

However, Sharman was granted an extension after it chose to appeal against the ruling on condition that a keyword filtering system was operational by December 5 that would block access in Australia to some 3000 popular artists such as Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Eminem.

But instead of implementing filters, the company blocked network access to all Australian users, a measure that MIPI argued would not prevent its existing Australian users from downloading copyright music.

Sharman Networks said that by making the site inaccessible to Australian users it was complying appropriately with the court orders pending the outcome of the appeal.

Whichever side loses, the appeal is expected to take its case to the High Court and would then be followed by a damages hearing. If the recording industry is victorious, Sharman could end up paying out millions of dollars in damages.

But whatever the outcome, this case is unlikely to be the end of the line for the recording industry. Although paid music download sites are helping to legitimise the online music industry and prevent revenue losses caused by piracy, Kazaa is by no means the only file sharing network and many users have already moved on to alternative peer-to-peer services.