Contempt charges to be heard Jan. 30.

The operators of the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing operation were today (Dec. 15) ordered to appear in Australian Federal Court on Jan. 30, 2006 to hear contempt of court charges. Contempt proceedings have been brought against Sharman Networks' CEO Hemming, Altnet CEO Kevin Bermeister, Sharman Networks, LEF Interactive, Altnet Inc and Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc.

The Australian record industry argued today that the operators had failed to comply with court orders. The Sydney court on Sept. 5 told Sharman to implement music filter software on its Kazaa software within three months.

By the Dec. 5 deadline, Sharman instead posted a notice on Kazaa warning Australian users not to use the system and took steps to block new downloads of the software in that territory.

"After having said they would implement filters, they have done nothing to prevent the continued copyright infringements on the Kazaa system," says IFPI chairman/CEO John Kennedy in a statement. "They have left the recording industry with no option but to pursue contempt proceedings against them. In the meantime Kazaa should stop prevaricating and filter its system now as it has been ordered to do."

Sharman's counsel, John Ireland, argued Sharman 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."

He insisted that the order "involved the continued making available of the software in Australia to anyone that wanted it. That has ended."

Justice Murray Wilcox today refused suggestions from the Sharman parties that he immediately disqualify himself from hearing the contempt charges.

The Federal Court is currently assessing the extent of monetary damages against Sharman.