Court rules against Kazaa
SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian court ruled on Monday that users of the popular Internet file-sharing network Kazaa were breaching copyright, and ordered its owners to modify the software to prevent online music piracy.
Federal Court Judge Murray Wilcox ruled that Kazaa’s Australian owner and developer, Sharman Networks, had not itself breached copyright but had encouraged millions of Kazaa users worldwide to do so.
“The respondents have long known that the Kazaa system is widely used for the sharing of copyright files,” said Wilcox in his ruling in a Sydney court.
The decision follows a similar judgment in June in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that file-sharing networks such as Grokster can be held liable if their intent is to promote copyright infringement of music or movies.
“The message is very clear for P2P services: It’s time to go legal,” said John Malcolm, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). “Today’s judgment shows that Kazaa — one of the biggest engines of copyright theft and the biggest brand name in music piracy worldwide — is illegal.”
Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks distribute data between users instead of relying on a central server.
Sharman Networks said it was disappointed with the judge’s decision, and that it planned to appeal.
The consequences of the Kazaa ruling on illicit file-sharing are uncertain. Previous legal crackdowns on P2P services have usually only served to send users to other networks.
“Inevitably, when you have successes it drives people elsewhere,” IFPI boss Malcolm said. “We know we’re never going to completely eradicate this kind of piracy, but the progress has been remarkable.”
VICTORY FOR MUSIC INDUSTRY
Australian record companies — including units of Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI Group, Warner Music, and several independents — will now seek damages for hundreds of millions of illicit music downloads at a later hearing.
“The court has ruled the current Kazaa system illegal,” Michael Speck, a spokesman for the Australian music industry, told reporters outside the court. “It is a great day for artists, it is a great day for anyone who wants to make a living from music.”
Sharman Networks had defended the use of the Internet to download music tracks, telling the court that file sharing represented a revolution in the way music was distributed and sold.
It said it could not control the actions of an estimated 100 million worldwide users.
Judge Wilcox said Kazaa failed to use available technology such as key word filters to prevent copyright infringement because it would have been against its financial interest.
He said that Kazaa’s “Join the Revolution” Web site campaign did not directly advocate sharing copyright files, but criticized record companies for opposing file sharing.
“It seems that Kazaa users are predominately young people, the effect of this web page would be to encourage visitors to think it ‘cool’ to defy the record companies by ignoring constraints,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox ordered Sharman Networks to modify the Kazaa software with filters to protect copyright.
“If Kazaa cleans up its act and does what the court has ordered it to do, stop its illegal business, then they have an opportunity to be part of the music industry,” said music industry spokesman Speck.
A growing number of legal online music services such as Apple’s iTunes, Napster, and RealNetworks’ Rhapsody have grown in popularity over the past year. And a new generation of P2P services like Mashboxx are hoping to hoping to offer the advantages of file-sharing without infringing on copyright.
Court rules against Kazaa