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SHARMAN SQUEEZED!
Per Australian Court Orders, Kazzaa Shuts Its Web Site, But the Sharing Continues
Kazzaa file-sharing software owner Sharman Networks has shut down its Australian Kazaa Web site in an attempt to at least partially comply with court orders pending appeal of a judgment holding that Kazaa is liable for copyright infringement.

In September, an Australian federal court ruled in favor of some 30 local music labels that Sharman/Kazaa had encouraged users to infringe copyrights by downloading music. At that time, the court ordered Kazaa to rework its software to include a filtering system that would prevent users from accessing copyrighted material through the Kazaa network.

The initial deadline for Sharman/Kazaa to comply with that order was Nov. 5, which was extended to Dec. 5. Now, according to reports, the second deadline has passed, and Sharman has moved to comply with the court by shutting down, at least temporarily, the Kazaa Web site where Internet users formerly were able to download the Kazaa software necessary to join its P2P network and access files (including illegal music files) stored on other users’ hard drives.

The move prevents any new copies of the Kazaa software, known as the Kazaa Media Desktop, from being distributed by Sharman to Australians (though Kazaa remains available elsewhere). But it does nothing to stop people who already have the software from using it.

According to CNET, those who try to browse the Kazaa Web site in Australia now receive a notice saying, “The Download of the Kazaa Media Desktop by users in Australia is not permitted.” Similarly, Sharman has issued a warning through its P2P network that appears when existing users open the Media Desktop: “Attention users in Australia,” this warning reads, “To comply with orders of the Federal Court of Australia, pending an appeal in February 2006, use of the Kazaa Media Desktop is not permitted by person in Australia. If you are in Australia, you must not use the Kazaa Media Desktop.”

A Sharman spokesman issued this statement: “All activity that could be deemed as authorizing has stopped so as to comply with the court orders, pending the imminent appeal in February. The Australian record companies have achieved their aim to stop the further distribution of Kazaa in Australia until an appeal court decides whether these orders should stand or not.”

But the Australian record companies, represented by Stephen Peach, head of the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), aren’t at all pleased, viewing Sharman’s moves as an attempt to circumvent the court order’s intent and avoid installing the filtering system in new Kazaa releases.

“Sharman has thumbed its nose at the court,” Peach said. “They were given a chance to do the right thing and they've ruined it. They cannot be trusted to even take the simplest steps towards complying with the court's orders and again have shown they intend to do nothing about the illegal activities occurring on a massive scale on their system.”

Of course, what Peach didn’t mention is that putting filtering on a new Kazaa version won’t prevent anyone from using the old version, or better P2P software from other developers, thus making the old “do something about all this illegal activity” argument moot.

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