December 14, 2005 9:50 PM PST

Kazaa owners may face time in jail

The masterminds behind the Kazaa file-sharing software could face time behind bars after the record industry initiated contempt of court proceedings, claiming an earlier ruling wasn't adhered to.

Record companies allege that Sharman Networks, the owner of Kazaa, didn't comply with an Australian Federal Court order to modify the software to ensure 3,000 keywords would be filtered by Dec. 5.

However, Sharman disagreed since it managed to block Australian users from downloading Kazaa by identifying their Internet Protocol address.

"Contempt proceedings are fairly rare in this court and I've never yet sent anyone to jail," Justice Murray Wilcox said Thursday in the Federal Court in Sydney. "I've threatened to a few times, but there's always a first I suppose."

The motion includes Sharman Networks Chief Executive Nikki Hemming, Altnet Chief Executive Kevin Bermeister, and associated companies Sharman Networks, LEF Interactive, Altnet and Brilliant Digital Entertainment.

Wilcox will hear the record industry's motion for contempt of court on Jan. 30.

"If there has been a breach (of the court order), that's contempt of court," Wilcox said. "On the other hand, if (the order) has been complied with, that's the end of the contempt charge. This motion is going to raise the matter of whether there is compliance or not."

Counsel for the record industry, Tony Bannon, said his side "didn't want" an imprisonment outcome, but argued that Sharman had failed to comply with the order.

"What they have done or attempted to do was to prevent downloads of the Kazaa software to Australian (Internet Protocol) users," Bannon said, claiming this had been "ineffective."

"They've continued to supply unfiltering versions of the software to many users, the copyright infringements continue...They continue to supply advertising...We say that's a clear breach" of the order, Bannon said.

However, John Ireland, counsel for Sharman, said his client had complied with the order: "What we did in lieu of implementing the filter was to take down the availability of this program in Australia completely. We say that that action involves obedience to the injunction and that is the issue on the contempt application."

The order "involved the continued making available of the software in Australia to anyone that wanted it," Ireland said. "That has ended."

Although he scheduled the motion for hearing, Wilcox again showed signs of frustration with the prolonged nature of the case, and blamed participants on both sides.

"I would cheerfully have nothing more to do with this case. I don't wake up in the morning and think 'I'd like a bit more Kazaa today,'" he said, citing learning about the technology as "quite time-consuming."

In September, after an 18-month battle, the judged ruled that Sharman and associated parties had authorized users of Kazaa to breach copyright.

Steven Deare reported for ZDNet Australia from Sydney.

4 comments

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ridiculous
There are plenty of other ways to illegally share copyrighted material. Why not jail the Xerox management team, or the makers of FTP software, or companies who write CD-burning software? It is outrageous to hold the makers of software responsible for how it can be used to break the law!
Posted by stumiller (20 comments )
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Exactly
I hear the inventor of the crowbar is up next because people have used it to break into cars and houses.
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
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Big deal...
If I only had to go to jail for a short time, but still keep millions of dollars I had made by exploiting users privacy, I'd do it!
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
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ARIA
ARIA(aussie version of the RIAA), has lost the plot!

Oh well, remember this, that this industry needs it's customers, yet treats them all as thieves SONY BMG style!

With the modern internet reaching to the far corners of the globe, this means, that any/or all recording artists can now retail direct to their customers and fans! So who needs the greedy middlemen who steal from all, to fatten their stipends!

Alas, ARIA, is now rapidly losing all relevance in the modern world, for the customer, now no longer needs them or their crooked mafia ways and criminal theft from both the artist(underpayment of royalties and diversion of same for these grand phony schemes, award nights etc and the customer(hijacking personal computers with illegal software etc)!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
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