Dutch music rights body takes Kazaa to Supreme Court

Dutch music rights body Buma/Stemra is taking its case against Kazaa BV to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, fighting the March 28 Amsterdam Appeals Court ruling that the software maker can't be held liable for the copyright-infringing actions of users of its file-sharing application.

Buma/Stemra, in a statement issued Tuesday, said that it feels that the Appeals Court "wrongly ruled that Kazaa is not (partially) responsible for the unauthorized downloading of music using the software it developed and brought to market."

The Supreme Court case won't directly affect the Kazaa application or its users. The Amsterdam software company sold most of its assets to Sharman Networks Ltd. in Australia to escape hefty fines it faced as a result of a November District Court ruling that basically ordered Kazaa to shut down. The March 28 Appeals Court ruling overturned that decision, but came after the hasty sale. However, if the Supreme Court sides with the Appeals Court on the ruling, The Netherlands could become a haven for companies offering file-swapping software, for example, suggested Kazaa lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm.

"If the Supreme Court says there is nothing legally wrong with the Appeals Court ruling, then they (Buma/Stemra) are in real trouble," said Alberdingk Thijm. "They probably decided to pursue this case under pressure from the U.S. record industry, as the Appeals Court ruling got worldwide attention."

Kazaa is peer-to-peer software that allows users to search the hard drives of other users for files they want, and to download them. In the U.S., the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have filed suit against various file-sharing Web sites, including Kazaa.

The RIAA was not available for immediate comment.

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands does not revise findings of fact from lower courts, but looks at whether the law has been properly applied by other courts. Alberdingk Thijm expects it to be at least six months before the court can hear the case.

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Joris Evers

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