The maker of the popular Kazaa peer-to-peer software has turned the tables on the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and a number of entertainment companies by suing them for copyright infringement.
Earlier last week, Sharman Networks, the company that distributes the Kazaa Media Desktop software, accused the RIAA and several entertainment companies of violating its copyrights by downloading an unauthorized version of the Kazaa file-sharing software and using it to hunt down the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of alleged music downloaders. Sharman Networks charges the RIAA and its representatives of using Kazaa Lite, a version of Kazaa not distributed by Sharman, to hunt down Kazaa users in order to file their own copyright claims against alleged file sharers.
Sharman Networks has been trying to stop the distribution of Kazaa Lite, said Alan Morris, Sharman's executive vice president. A representative of Media Defender, a copyright-violation head-hunter that has worked with the RIAA, used Kazaa Lite to demonstrate what types of files were being shared at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, Morris said.
A representative of Media Defender was not immediately available for comment, but the RIAA issued a statement, calling Sharman Networks' copyright claim "ironic" when its software is used to trade millions of copyright songs.
"Sharman Networks' newfound admiration for the importance of copyright law is ironic to say the least," the RIAA statement said. "Too bad this self-serving respect stops at its headquarters' door ... and doesn't extend to preventing the rampant piracy on their networks or lifting a finger to educate their users about the consequences of illegal file sharing."
The RIAA used the same kind of ironic tactics, given that earlier this month, the trade association sued 261 alleged music uploaders for copyright infringement, Morris said. "It's ironic that somebody who's suing 12-year-old girls for copyright infringement themselves blatantly disregard copyright laws," he said. "Who's being more ironic?"
Morris accused Media Defender of using Kazaa Lite "in front of our lawyers" to demonstrate the dangers of peer-to-peer (P-to-P) software during a congressional hearing. "He is using a hacked version of our code," Morris said. "That's a straightforward DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) violation."
The DMCA prohibits people from reverse engineering computer code for the purposes of cracking copyright protection technology.
Even if the RIAA were using the authorized Kazaa Media Desktop, distributed by Sharman Networks, to track down alleged music traders using Kazaa, that would violate the software's end-user license agreement., Morris added. Kazaa Media Desktop's license agreement prohibits users from monitoring traffic or making search requests in order to accumulate information about individual users.
The license also prohibits users from transmitting, accessing or communicating any data that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights of any party. The RIAA alleges that Sharman Networks is not enforcing that part of the license agreement.
Sharman Networks filed the copyright infringement claim against the RIAA and others Monday as part of a counterclaim to an entertainment industry lawsuit against Sharman Networks and other distributors of P-to-P software. The counterclaim, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that several companies in the music and movie industries have conspired to keep Sharman Networks from licensing content to distribute over Kazaa. In April, a federal judge threw out the portion of the music and movie industries' lawsuit against P-to-P software vendors Grokster and StreamCast Networks.