Judge pencils in Sharman trial date

File-sharing application Kazaa could be outlawed by the end of the year, after a Federal Court judge set a "preliminary" trial date of 29 November for Sharman Networks.

In the latest round of legal wrangling on Thursday between the record companies and Sharman Networks over the Kazaa peer-to-peer system, Justice Murray Wilcox said he hoped the case could be heard before Christmas.

"The 29th of November is a viable option [for the trial]," he said. "Parties should work on that basis."

This was only a "preliminary" date and could be changed, he said.

However, senior counsel for Sharman, Robert Ellicot QC, warned that the case might not be heard until next year.

"Our assessment is the matter won't be ready until April of next year," he told the court.

"There are at least half a million files [to sort]," he said, in reference to Sharman documents seized by the record industry under an Anton Piller court order earlier this year. The documents are currently held by an independent solicitor, and must be sorted by Sharman to ensure the record industry has access only to relevant documents.

The documents are alleged to contain sound recordings used by Kazaa that infringe copyright owned by the record companies.

Justice Wilcox then asked Tony Bannon SC, representing the record companies, how many documents his client was to use in its case.

"There are 100 in our application, and 1000 in our repertoire," said Bannon.

This amount of documents was not required to progress the case, Justice Wilcox said.

"The more sound recordings the case is concerned with, the more time that is required.

"Why wouldn't it be enough to have half a dozen or 10?

"You [Mr Bannon] have to accept some trimming of the case on your side to get the case heard by Christmas," Justice Wilcox said.

"If later you want to press for 10,000 files you can have that heard in 2010, though hopefully not by me!"

The record companies would try to reduce the number of files in their application, according to Bannon.

Justice Wilcox then ordered both parties have access to their claimed documents, part of the "discovery process", by 13 August.

Justice Wilcox also said the record companies' statement of claim against Kazaa was unclear on technical aspects. He ordered Sharman demonstrate Kazaa to the record companies' representatives next week to speed the discovery process.

Justice Wilcox set the next hearing for 16 July.

Making a rare appearance at proceedings was Sharman CEO Nikki Hemming. Also present were Sharman CTO Phil Morle and Music Industry Piracy Investigations boss Michael Speck.

Late Thursday Justice Wilcox was due to hear a motion by Sharman that alleged the record companies breached the Telecommunications Act by intercepting communications during their raids on Sharman's offices. Justice Wilcox dismissed the motion due to lack of evidence.

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Steven Deare

PC World
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