Sharman Networks, the company that produces the popular Kazaa file-sharing program, has been ordered by an Australian court to modify its popular software to prevent future music file swapping and copyright infringement.
The case, brought forth by record labels Universal, EMI, Sony BMG, Warner Brothers, and Festival Mushroom, had been in the Australian court system for months and is the latest in an ongoing battle between publishers, who hold music copyrights, and peer-to-peer networks, which promote free sharing of music files among subscribers.
The ruling is a victory for the record industry, which has long held that file sharing was tantamount to piracy and an infringement upon copyrighted material, as well as a hindrance to legal record sales.
John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries called the ruling "a milestone in the fight against Internet piracy worldwide" and proof that "Kazaa÷the biggest brand in music piracy worldwide, is illegal."
Kazaa's owners had argued that it had no say in how its customers used their product, likening themselves to producers of audiocassettes or photocopiers. Australian federal court judge Murray Wilcox disagreed, stating that the company knew "that the Kazaa system is widely used for the sharing of copyrighted files." Wilcox stopped short of calls for prosecuting individual Kazaa subscribers (who numbered 4.7 million at the software's peak in popularity), saying that the company openly encouraged its customers to illegally share files and so should bear the bulk of responsibility.
Sharman Networks has two months to modify its Kazaa software by adding filters to stop file sharing.
In light of the Australian ruling, the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) has called on the Canadian government to enact similar laws. CRIA president Gordon Henderson called Canada a "piracy haven," while alleging that Canadian laws with respect to file sharing and copyright infringement are "antiquated."
Citing fears that Kazaa may see Canada as a suitable new home base for operations, Henderson said that Canada needs to amend its copyright laws, stating that "the world÷[is] speaking very clearly about what the new social norm is. And it's not free copyright." Parliament is scheduled to debate new copyright legislation this month.
Writer: Neil McDonald