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Oz firm displays Napster-style sleight of hand

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KaZaA.com has resumed its Napster-style software downloads after the sale of assets by developer Fast Track to privately-held Australian firm, Sharman Networks Limited.

Terms of the deal, which includes the license for the FastTrack P2P Stack, the KaZaA.com Web site, name, and logos, were not disclosed.

Sharman has issued a minimalist press release on the acquisition. Its US PR agency was unable to answer our questions on how Sharman hoped to avoid becoming embroiled in a copyright infringement case against KaZaA, the Dutch software and products firm that founded KaZaA.com.

KaZaA's change of ownership came to light through some gnomic alterations on its web site discovered by DotcomScoop.com.

In October, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against KaZaA, as well as peer-to-peer MP3 file sharing services MusicCity and Grokster, which use FastTrack's code.

In November, a Dutch judge gave KaZaA two weeks to cease infringing recording artists' copyrights or risk a penalty of 100,000 guilders ($40,317) a day.

KaZaA, which claims its software has been downloaded more than 20 million times, responded by saying it could not comply with the judge's order as it has no way of identifying those who uses its software.

The issue of identifying users is central to legal action taken against KaZaA by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America. 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.

In January 16, KaZaA voluntarily suspended downloads pending a decision by a Dutch court on the copyright infringement case. A ruling is expected on January 31. ®

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