Kazaa enlists users to counter industry

Sharman Networks Ltd., distributor of the Kazaa Media Desktop peer-to-peer (P-to-P) software, will launch a US$1 million advertising campaign Wednesday, hoping to mobilize its 60 million users to pressure the entertainment industry to agree to licensing deals with Sharman.

The campaign, to be launched Wednesday in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, will include advertising in selected newspapers, including student newspapers at 34 of the largest U.S. colleges, and on Web sites such as Yahoo.com and RollingStone.com. The campaign will encourage P-to-P users to demand that entertainment companies begin licensing their content to Kazaa, said Nikki Hemming, chief executive officer of Sharman Networks. The campaign will also ask P-to-P users to educate their elected officials on the issue.

"It's a call to action," Hemming said of the campaign. "It is time to embrace peer-to-peer. We want to raise the awareness of influencers worldwide that there's a better way to do things, a better way to market and distribute content, and a better way to engage with fans that doesn't involve suing them."

In September, the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA) announced copyright lawsuits against 261 people it said were trading hundreds of unauthorized files using Kazaa and other P-to-P software. Neither the RIAA nor the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had an immediate comment on the Sharman Networks campaign.

The Sharman Networks advertising campaign is intended to counter the stances the RIAA and the MPAA have taken against P-to-P software vendors and users, Hemming said. The campaign will encourage P-to-P users to "try and buy" licensed content already available on Kazaa, and to demand that more licensed content is made available through entertainment companies, Hemming said.

"They will be encouraged to write to the (entertainment) industry, politicians, to each other and have voice," Hemming said. The Kazaa campaign will also "make it extremely clear that infringement is unacceptable," she added.

About 45 million licensed files are downloaded each month from Kazaa, and those files include music, video games and movie trailers, Hemming said. Kazaa receives licensed content through strategic partner Altnet, which negotiates the licensing deals.

Hemming argued that music and movie companies could save 90 percent of their bandwidth costs by distributing their products over P-to-P because users of P-to-P software supply most of the bandwidth. "We want to ... remind everyone of the opportunities being missed here," Hemming said during a news conference Monday.

Asked if she expects the campaign to sway the attitude of entertainment industry executives, Hemming said she expects it to be the start of a dialog on licensing content to P-to-P services. "The advertising campaign is a trigger for mobilization," she said. "I think it would be extremely hard for an industry to ignore millions of consumers, letting them know that they want to buy content."

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