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Consumer, privacy groups demand seat at Kazaa trial

To prevent public interest issues being overlooked

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The Australian music industry's fight with Kazaa owner Sharman Networks is not set to return to the Sydney court until late next month, but a number of third-parties are already demanding the right to participate.

It's perhaps no great surprise that e-liberties lobbyists the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) wants in, but so apparently do the Australian Consumers Association and the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL), Australian IT reports.

All three plan to submit affidavits to the court requesting leave to sit in on the proceedings as 'friends of the court'. They believe there are "serious public interest issues at stake", according to NSWCCL president Cameron Murphy, which may otherwise be ignored.

For its part, the NSWCCL is concerned that the legitimate uses of P2P software will not be factored into the case's final judgement. It's these lawful applications that have hindered the Motion Picture Ass. of America's attempts to outlaw P2P software in US.

We're not sure we'd agree with Mr Murphy's assertion that "main purpose of this software isn't music piracy", but the fact that P2P code can be and is used to share files with the permission of the copyright holder should be taken into account in the case.

The legal battle began in February 2004 when a body representing Australian recording companies, Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), won a court order permitting it to raid Sharman's HQ and executives' homes, along with the offices of a number of ISPs, other Internet-related businesses and even local universities.

The haul of data seized by MIPI in its quest for evidence of mass copyright infringement has been at the centre of a legal tug of war ever since, as lawyers for both MIPI and Sharman have argued over the relevance of the information gathered, how it was obtained and what part if any of it may be used in MIPI's lawsuit against Sharman.

Trial judge Justice Murray Wilcox has delayed the trial on numerous occasions this year as the parties struggle to reach an accord on the usage of the controversial material. The case is due to recommence on 29 November, but there remains the distinct possibility that it will have to be rescheduled again. ®

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