Skype duo drawn into Kazaa case

Skype and Kazaa founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis will have their past business affairs under the legal microscope of the major record labels following a court hearing last week.

In their latest motion against Sharman Networks and its Kazaa file-sharing software, lawyers for the record companies requested documents on the formation of companies founded by Zennstrom and Friis.

"The dates [we seek] are [when they were] incorporated or commenced business," John Nicholas, senior counsel for the record companies, said.

"It would be appropriate to know when each of them came into existence," said Nicholas.

The Zennstrom and Friis companies were not named in the hearing, held in the Federal Court in Sydney. However, the two have launched several ventures in recent years, including Kazaa.

The record companies are trying to find connections between Kazaa business partners that they will allege show Sharman and others knew Kazaa would be used to breach copyright.

Zennstrom and Friis developed Kazaa before becoming business partners with Kevin Bermeister's Brilliant Digital Entertainment, one of the respondents in the record label's lawsuit.

Zennstrom and Friis later sold Kazaa to Sharman Networks. Their most recent venture, Skype, has similarly triggered global headlines by allowing users to make free 'phone' calls over the Internet.

The Scandinavian pair have not been sued by the record companies.

However, senior counsel for Sharman, Robert Ellicot QC, said historical documents were "irrelevant to any issue".

"It's got nothing to do with it. The companies have been formed.

"What particular people...have done or said or put into documents in relation to the historical background of these companies, is in our submission quite irrelevant.

"If they want to allege that somebody else was involved in the infringement, well, that's another case, it's not this one," he said.

Justice Murray Wilcox granted access to the documents.

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Steven Deare

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