Consumer groups resisted over Kazaa

Consumer groups' support of Kazaa met strong resistance at the closely watched Kazaa court trial on Tuesday, as the music industry claimed the peer-to-peer software was not a community interest.

In final submissions to the Federal Court, the Australian Consumer Association (ACA), Electronic Frontiers Australia and New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties made a joint submission to Justice Murray Wilcox on broader issues that they say are at stake in the case.

The trial has been seen as one of the first test cases on peer-to-peer distribution software and whether or not it authorises copyright infringement. Supporters of peer-to-peer software have expressed concerns for its future should the court's decision go against Kazaa.

In his final address to the court, counsel for the music industry, Tony Bannon SC, argued that these concerns were not relevant to Kazaa, as it was not community-driven.

"[It] would be essentially significantly different if you had a peer-to-peer file system being provided in a way akin to community radio where there's no advertising, there's no attempt to trade off the back of copyright infringing material...," he said.

Sharman Networks, owner of Kazaa, derives most of its income through advertising.

"It is only because of the commercial imperative of the respondents that this system was created in the first place," Bannon said.

Bannon attacked the design of Kazaa, and said there were plenty of other technologies for distributing content.

"It is not as though this is the only peer-to-peer system in the world," Bannon said.

"It is not as though there aren't capacities in all people to set up their own Web site, their Web server and say whatever they want to say and make themselves accessible through Google or BigPond."

Consumer freedom to distribute genuine content could still be preserved by alterations to the Kazaa Media Desktop, Bannon said.

A filter on blue (free) files could prevent copyright infringement, and genuine files could still be made available through Altnet's controlled gold file system (at no cost), he said.

The Sharman parties have previously argued that Kazaa and Altnet are separate systems, and work independently.

Final submissions from both sides in the trial are being heard this week.

Justice Wilcox is expected to schedule his verdict for next month.

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Steven Deare

PC World
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