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Kazaa trial opens with 'massive piracy' claim

Sharman 'encouraged' illegal file-trading, lawyers allege

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Kazaa owner Sharman Networks was back in the Australian Federal Court in Sydney today facing allegations that it had not only created the world's largest music piracy network, but also knew for what illegal purpose its software was being put and even encouraged such usage.

So stated lawyers acting for the world's four biggest record labels - Universal, EMI, Warner and Sony BMG - local recording company Festival Mushroom and dozens of others told the Court today at the opening of what is expected to be a three-week trial.

The allegations follow an investigation conducted by Australian anti-piracy organisation Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI), a body affiliated with the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), the local answer to the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA). That probe culminated in February this year in a series of data-seizure raids on Sharman's HQ, the homes of its executives and the offices of a number of other Internet-related business.

Since then lawyers for the music industry and Sharman's own legal representatives have filed a variety of suits and countersuits, and engaged in a bitter battle over what information grabbed in the raids is pertinent to the case and whether the Court was right to sign the Anton Pillar Order which permitted the raids to go ahead in the first place.

Today's trial opening indicates that Judge Murray Wilcox has at last been convinced that the two parties have reached an agreement on what information can be used and the extent to which each other has access to the data.

With a broad precedent set by the US District Court and the Court of Appeals that P2P software is itself not illegal and that P2P software suppliers are not responsible for the actions of their users, the music industry's legal team will attempt to show that Sharman knew that its software was being used for mass-piracy and even encouraged such illegal uses for its own gain.

Counsel for the labels, Tony Bannon SC, claimed that Sharman "paints themselves as the defenders of the interests of fans of music [but] they are trading off the copyright-infringing activities of its users.

"Far from inhibiting infringements, they are actually encouraging them."

Sharman promotes Kazaa as "the world's most popular file-sharing system" but that popularity has arisen solely "because of the rampant copyright-infringing activity", Bannon said. The music owners - the artists, labels and publishers - did not benefit directly from that sharing activity.

The case continues. ®

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