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Kazaa suspends software downloads


TRIBE Member
Looks like another one in trouble...

Kazaa suspends software downloads
By Justin Oppelaar

NEW YORK (Variety) - Kazaa, the wildly popular free music-swapping service that emerged in the wake of Napster (news - web sites)'s decline, may finally have shown a chink in its armor.

Consumer Empowerment, the Amsterdam-based company that developed Kazaa and the Fasttrack file-sharing network on which it operates, has suspended all new downloads of the software, pending a decision by a Dutch judge in a copyright suit filed against the company by a European publishers' rights group.

The move doesn't affect users who have already downloaded the Kazaa software; they were still able to swap music and other digital files via Fasttrack last week. Consumer Empowerment also licenses the Fasttrack technology to fellow file-swappers Grokster and Morpheus.

Shutdown reps a preliminary but nonetheless important victory for copyright holders against a new generation of peer-to-peer services, which have to date flouted the major music companies, much as Napster did before it was effectively shut down by a court order last year.

The three Fasttrack services have been the most prominent in a rash of second-wave peer-to-peer companies, drawing millions of users daily -- even more than Napster had in its heyday last February.

As with Napster, however, the popular services have drawn the ire of the music industry: The Recording Industry Assn. of America and the Motion Picture Assn. of America last fall slapped their own lawsuit on Grokster, Consumer Empowerment and Morpheus parent Music City.

But the Dutch suit may be far more effective in crippling the new group of services, because it strikes on the home turf of Fasttrack, the network that powers all three, where any potential injunction would be far easier to enforce.

The industry is particularly sensitive to the issue of online infringement because of the recent rollout of its own music subscription offerings, MusicNet and Pressplay. But the two services, launched late last year, have not drawn anywhere near the number of users that have flocked to free file-sharing.

Fasttrack and its clients have argued that they aren't responsible for users' infringing activities, because they don't archive the locations of files as Napster did. Rather, the system picks users with high-speed connections to act as ``supernodes,'' helping to rout the traffic on the network.

Meanwhile, Napster itself is trying to go legit: Company last week released a beta version of its revamped peer-to-peer service, which it claims will compensate all rights holders. So far, however, Napster hasn't been able to ink licensing deals with any of the five major label groups.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS


TRIBE Member
Actually it supposed to be back up and working now.


A week after the company stopped downloads of its software, Amsterdam-based peer-to-peer software firm KaZaA announced on its website that it had launched a new version of its software, that includes a pay service, and a cryptic message made it appear that KaZaA is now owned by an Australian company called Sharman Network Services. Or perhaps not.

The Kazaa.com website was stripped bare of much of its content on Sunday and was allowing users to download an updated version of its software, although attempts to download this software were met with an error message.

By 4:15 AM EST on Monday, the original KaZaA website was back up with no mention of new software or Sharman Network Services. But access to the new terms of use agreement was still possible and the copyright information at the bottom identifies "Sharman Network Services" as the owner of the website's contents.

As of last week the company was based in the Netherlands. However, upon close examination of its new terms of use license, the company now appears to be based in Australia.

"This License as well as all disputes arising out of or in connection with this Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the New South Wales, without regard to or application of choice of law rules or principles. Any dispute arising out of or in connection with this License, or in future agreements resulting there from, shall be exclusively resolved before the competent court in New South Wales," the new terms of use dictate.

New South Wales is Australia's largest state population wise and the home of Sydney.

The "WHOIS" information for the Kazaa.com domain has not been updated, but a note posted on the KaZaA site on early Monday morning EST led users to believe that FastTrack, the company that created the code used for and owns KaZaA, and has licensed its code out to competitors MusicCity and Grokster, no longer controls KaZaA. Various searches for "Sharman Network Services" turned up no results.

"The original brains behind Kazaa have moved on to develop new innovative software. The team now running Kazaa will continue to deliver the best technology for finding, saving and transfering all the data you want: no limits. Get ready for the next version of KaZaA with even better performance and enhanced usability," said a note posted on the KaZaA homepage, before it reverted back to its original state.

In an ironic twist, one major new area of the company's terms of service agreement covers the distribution of the KaZaA software itself. KaZaA and other file sharing companies are under legal fire for allowing users to trade copyrighted material.

"This License allows you to install and use the KaZaA Media Desktop on a single computer. This License does not permit you to install the Software on more than one computer at a time. You may make one copy of the Software in machine-readable form for backup purposes only. The backup copy must include all copyright information contained on the original," according to KaZaA's new terms of use agreement. The original terms of use agreement is still linked on the KaZaA homepage.

The company has also apparently added new features that consumers will be forced to pay for.

"Certain features of the KaZaA Media Desktop may require payment in the future including a prepaid fee ("Prepaid Fee"). The Prepaid Fee, and all taxes and other fees related thereto will be paid by you in advance. You shall pay all fees and charges incurred through your account at the rates in effect for the billing period in which such fees and charges are incurred. All fees and charges shall be billed to you, and you shall be solely responsible for their payment. You shall pay all applicable taxes relating to the use of the Software through your account. If you do not pay the applicable fees, including Prepaid Fees, within the prescribed period of time your account will be terminated immediately, without limiting KaZaA's right to demand payment of fees and damages at a later time," the company now says.

The new terms appear to try to help KaZaA further indemnify itself from being responsible for users who trade copyrighted material.

KaZaA suspended downloads of its software last week saying it was awaiting a Dutch court decision on its fate.

"Download of the KaZaA Media Desktop software is temporarily and voluntarily suspended pending Dutch court decision on January 31. We apologise for the inconvenience. Please check back at www.kazaa.com for more information," the company said in a statement issued on its website last week.

A Dutch court ruled in November that the company must stop its users from sharing copyrighted material. The ruling is under appeal and the court will make a decision on Jan. 31.

KaZaA also recently added a disclaimer on its site regarding the copyright issue.

KaZaA, MusicCity and Grokster find themselves the subject of international court pressure. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) launched a lawsuit against the companies last fall in an effort to stem the tide of peer-to-peer transfer of copyrighted music files.

In October, an internal RIAA memo, leaked to Dotcom Scoop, outlined the RIAA's strategy to take on the file-sharing networks. The memo indicated that the RIAA would attempt to negotiate with FastTrack in an effort to shut down its licensees.

"Thus, we recommend (1) filing claims against FastTrack, MusicCity, and Grockster, (2) immediately thereafter initiating discussions with FastTrack about resolving our claims in a way that will provide us with useful information and testimony against MusicCity, and if possible obtain FastTrack’s cooperation in shutting down or converting MusicCity and Grokster," the memo stated.