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Doesn't know who's using its software

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Music sharing operation KaZaA has responded to a Dutch court's order to cease infringing copyright by stating that it is impossible for it to do so.

The company was yesterday given two weeks to prevent users of its software from sharing material they have no right to distribute to others. Today, KaZaA said it simply can't do what the Judge ordered. Why? Because it has no way of identifying those who use its software.

"The computer program has already been distributed," said KaZaA lawyer Christiaan Alberdink Thijm. "KaZaA can't see what sort of files people are sharing or who its users are."

KaZaA claims its software has been downloaded over 20 million times.

"We don't really know what the judge wants KaZaA to do," Alberdink Thijm added. The answer to that is talk to the music industry and figure out a way of licensing the content that users are sharing. That's certainly the implication of the Judge's order to the Dutch music publishing body, Buma/Stemra, which brought the case against KaZaA and its parent, Consumer Empowerment. CE also owns FastTrack, the company that developed the sharing software KaZaA offers.

If KaZaA fails to comply with the Judge's order, it could face daily fines of up to 100,000 guilders ($40,240).

The issue of identifying users is central to legal action taken against KaZaA by the Recording Industry Ass. of America and the Motion Picture Ass. of America in October. KaZaA's code uses the true peer-to-peer principle enshrined in the Gnutella protocol. As such, there is no central server to control file transfers and so no repository of user information.

That's the principle. In practice, the RIAA believes FastTrack's software does maintain a user database, to provide authentication services, and as such can identify its users. That at least, is the gist of an internal memo that leaked out of the RIAA in October.

Potentially, KaZaA's contribution to copyright infringement is significant. FastTrack's code is also used by MusicCity and Grokster, both of which saw a total of 1.81 billion files swapped in October alone, market watcher Webnoize has reported. Grokster and MusicCity were both named in the RIAA and MPAA lawsuits last month.

»The court's decision against KaZaA yesterday has notched up its first casualty. Dutch file-sharing operation XoloX yesterday said it would shut down on 1 December, specifically citing the "latest law suits against P2P clients based on FastTrack technology". XoloX launched its Gnutella-based software in August - that code will be removed from distribution sites tomorrow. ®

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