KaZaA Hits Back Against Record Labels

Turning the tables on record labels, makers of the most popular file-sharing network are suing the companies for copyright infringement.

Turning the tables on record labels, makers of the most popular file-sharing network are suing the companies for copyright infringement. Sharman Networks, the company behind the KaZaA file-sharing software, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday accusing the labels of using unauthorized versions of its software in their efforts to snoop out users.

Sharman said the companies used KaZaA Lite, an ad-less replica of its software, to get onto the network. The lawsuit also claims efforts to combat piracy on KaZaA violated terms for using the network. Labels have allegedly offered bogus versions of copyrighted works and sent online messages to users.

Sharman's lawsuit also revives its previous allegation that the labels violated antitrust laws by stopping Sharman and its partner from distributing authorized copies of music and movies through KaZaA. U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson rejected those claims in July but last week allowed Sharman to try again. Last year, the labels filed suit against Sharman, accusing it of providing free access to copyrighted music and films.

The Recording Industry Association of America called Sharman's "newfound admiration for the importance of copyright law" ironic and "self-serving." Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group declined comment on the lawsuit.

In related news, the software developers who wrote KaZaA have launched an Internet phone service they claim could put traditional phone companies out of business. The service, called Skype, purports to offer free, unlimited phone service between users -- with sound quality near to what its developers derisively dub "POTS" -- a Plain Old Telephone Service.

Unlike KaZaA, which drew the wrath of the music industry, Skype shouldn't stir up a legal hornet's nest. "The goal here is that we want Skype to be the telephone company of the future," said Niklas Zennstrom, the firm's chief executive. "Traditional network technologies date back to the 1870s. They're inflexible and costly to maintain."


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