Sharman blocks Australian access to Kazaa software

Sharman Networks blocked access to Kazaa software in Australia as part of a court mandate.

Sharman Networks is blocking Internet users in Australia from downloading the client software used to access the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing system. It has taken the decision in order to comply with an Australian court ruling, it said Tuesday.

Kazaa is used to share files, typically music files. Australian record companies won a court ruling against Sharman in September, ordering it to prevent Australians from using Kazaa to distribute copyright music without permission. Sharman later won a stay to that order, allowing it to keep the service open provided it offered a new version of its software by midnight on Monday that implements a keyword filtering system to block access to certain files. The company is appealing the ruling, and an appeal hearing has been set for February.

As the Dec. 5 deadline passed, the company chose not to implement the filtering system, instead blocking visitors from Australian ISPs (Internet service providers) from downloading its software altogether.

Visitors to the company's Web site at http://www.kazaa.com/ are now told that "To comply with orders of the Federal Court of Australia, pending an appeal in the February 2006 (sic), use of the Kazaa Media Desktop is not permitted by persons in Australia. If you are in Australia, you must not download or use the Kazaa Media Desktop."

The block on downloads by Australian users will remain in place until a decision has been made on the appeal, according to company spokeswoman Julie Fenwick.

The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) was unsatisfied with the move, describing it as an insult to the court.

"Sharman has thumbed its nose at the court. ... It is apparent that they never had any intention of applying filters, the bare minimum they needed to continue to operate the system," Stephen Peach, chief executive officer of ARIA and director of Music Industry Piracy Investigations (Pty), said in a statement.

The record companies will return to court in the coming days to seek enforcement of the original judgement.

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