November 17, 2003 2:54 PM PST

Kazaa ads tell P2P users to speak up

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Sharman Networks, distributor of the popular Kazaa file-sharing software, previewed its first-ever set of print ads Monday that will run in major newspapers and Rolling Stone magazine beginning this week.

In separate ads aimed respectively at entertainment moguls and at consumers, Sharman exhorted executives to stop treating file swappers as pirates and asked computer users to lobby record labels and movie studios to put aside their animosity toward Kazaa.

"It's a call to action," Nikki Hemming, Sharman's chief executive officer, said in a conference call, unveiling the ads. "We want to cut through the clutter, put our money where our mouth is and remind everybody of the opportunity being missed here."

The $1 million print ad campaign is the first from the nearly 2-year-old Sharman Networks, which operates the most widely used file-sharing network in the United States. The ads will run in daily and college campus papers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia and online on Yahoo and other Web sites.

The company, along with marketing and technology partner Altnet, a division of Brilliant Digital Entertainment, has been trying to persuade record companies and movie studios to distribute authorized, copy-protected versions of their works though the Kazaa network, using technology Altnet developed.

To date, no large entertainment company has agreed to partner with the file-swapping services, and the pair has been limited to distributing independent artists and labels' content, along with a handful of video games. Studios and labels are still suing Sharman for copyright infringement, while Sharman has countersued on antitrust grounds.

"Altnet and Sharman have experienced deafness on the part of the industry for way too long, and there's a point where you have to take action," Hemming said, explaining the advertisements' rationale.

A first ad, conceived as an open letter to media moguls, says entertainment companies are making a mistake in trying to shut down file-swapping services.

"Sixty million people have embraced this technology as a new and better way to get their entertainment," the ad reads. "They are not pirates. They are your customers."

A pair of additional ads is aimed at consumers, asking them to make it clear that they'll buy content on Kazaa as readily as from digital song stores such as Apple Computer's iTunes or Napster.

"Some things you want to buy are not available because the major record companies and movie companies don't think you'll pay," the ad reads. "This is your chance to tell the record and movie companies they are wrong."

All the ads contain a pointer to a Kazaa page--not yet active--that will tell consumers to seek out copy-protected content and pay for it to prove the viability of file swapping as a legal distribution mechanism. The page also will ask consumers to write to entertainment companies and their congressional representatives.

The campaign may be funded in part by a deal with online entertainment company eUniverse, which said last week that it agreed to give $2.3 million in nonrefundable advances to Sharman as part of a co-marketing deal.

 

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