Peer-to-peer file-trading networks like KaZaA could prevent users from downloading music, movies and other copyrighted material if they had any desire to do so, media and technology experts said on Tu

Peer-to-peer file-trading networks like KaZaA could prevent users from downloading music, movies and other copyrighted material if they had any desire to do so, media and technology experts said on Tuesday (Jan. 13).

KaZaA, Morpheus and other P2P networks are hailed as a revolutionary technology that allows users to swap any sort of digital material directly, but they have drawn withering criticism for their ability to make copyrighted material and hardcore pornography widely available for free.

In a letter to Congress, an adult-video firm said KaZaA's parent company had the ability to monitor activity on the network and could stop copyright violations if it wished. Titan Media's claim was backed up by two independent technology experts, who said such filtering technology exists and could be deployed easily and affordably.

"If you've got computing power to do the searches, you can also use that computer power to do that filtering directly," said Darrell Smith, who oversaw the Morpheus P2P network when it shared the same technology as KaZaA.

But existing copyright filters can be easily evaded, said a lawyer for KaZaA parent Sharman Networks.

Expert witnesses at a trial last year failed to prove that any filtering system could work, said Larry Hadley, outside counsel to Sharman. "When those people were deposed, it turned out to be a house of cards," Hadley said.

Sharman has long maintained that it cannot control content on KaZaA because users connect directly with each other, not through company-owned computers. KaZaA does contain a filter to allow users to avoid offensive content.

But others said content filtering is already in use.

Titan Media, which asked Sharman last month to block 1,400 of its movies, said Sharman can closely monitor activity on the network through "spyware" installed on users' computers and could block users from downloading copyrighted files.

The head of a peer-to-peer trade group that does not represent KaZaA said Congress should hold hearings to determine if such filters actually work or if they are simply hype.

"If this unicorn of a program exists in the forest of software, then it is incumbent upon the industries that keep claiming that they've made sightings to at least provide video for the evening news," said Adam Eisgrau, executive director of P2P United.

--Reuters