Kazaa In Hot Water

Tina Reilly
SYDNEY, Australia – Sharman Networks asked a federal court this week to allow only one trial at time involving its file-sharing network Kazaa.

Kazaa is currently a co-defendant along with Grokster and StreamCast in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the U.S. entertainment industry in which the plaintiffs are seeking to overturn an earlier ruling that got the three companies off the hook for copyright infringement liability.

Kazaa has come under a hailstorm of criticism in recent months for claiming that it has no control over the types of content traded over its network. Many companies that blame Kazaa for faciliating copyright infringement contend that in fact Kazaa has exactly the kind of control over its technology that could put a stop to infringement, including the file-sharing of child pornography.

Lawyers for Sharman Networks have asked the judge to rule that evidence obtained during a series of raids last week in Australia is inadmissible in the U.S. court proceedings.

Representatives for Sharman claim that the information collected in the raids was already presented to the courts in the U.S., and is therefore unnecessary.

Sharman Networks is calling into account whether the Federal Court in Sydney had the legal right to allow 12 raids on Sharman's offices in several states throughout Australia, the Associated Press (AP) reports. The raids were conducted by Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), and according to reports, the homes of Sharman's chief executive officer and its director of technology were searched.

According to the AP, MIPI is a collective effort on behalf of six of the biggest recording companies in Australia that have been pursuing Kazaa for some time over copyright issues.

"The recording industry plaintiffs, through their representative MIPI, have used the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb to obtain documentation that is already being readily produced by Sharman through the U.S. court system," A representative for Sharman told the AP.

Sharman is claiming that the raids were a 'breach of copyright legal action' and that court proceedings, which at the moment have been postponed until Feb. 20, should be put to a stop until the case in the U.S. is resolved.

According to MIPI, Kazaa has already caused enough damage. "Their time is up," the association said in a statement.

Critics of the court proceedings are claiming that the U.S. is simply trying to expand its case against Kazaa by forcing a trial in Kazaa's own homeland.

The U.S. entertainment industry already lost a landmark case in December 2003 in the Netherlands when a Dutch Supreme Court ruled that Kazaa could not be held liable for content traded over its network.

The Dutch Supreme Court upheld a March 2002 ruling in which an appeals court ruled in favor of Fasttrack, the Amsterdam-based firm that first developed Kazaa and was later acquired by Sharman Networks.

The Dutch court is the highest European body to rule on the issue of P2P liability and rejected the argument that Kazaa facilitated copyright infringement.