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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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September 5, 2005

Australian Court on KaZaA - Stop: Napster Time

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An Australian federal court has ruled that the Sharman companies responsible for the filesharing software KaZaA "authorized," and are therefore liable for, copyright infringement by the people who use the software. Further, the court has ordered Sharman to modify the software to help prevent infringement. And that means copyright holders will be involved on an ongoing basis, providing lists of material to be filtered from searches.

Australian copyright expert Kim Weatherall has extensive analysis. Writes Weatherall:


Given the experience over in the US in the Napster litigation, where similar attempts by a trial judge led to much ongoing disputation about the form of orders that only went away when the litigation collapsed under its own weight, I'm surprised that any judge would want to get into this.

[...]

In my view, it was always going to be the case that Kazaa itself went down, on the kinds of facts that we see in this case. What I was hoping was that the judge would find a way to frame a rule so that it caught 'bad actors' without generally chilling innovation.

The court has not done that. The court has caught the bad actor but provided no guidelines for the good actor.

[...]

In splitting the baby, and trying to get into technological design, I fear that the judge has let himself in for a helluva fight. And it's not like he didn't know that: he saw the litigation as it went on. I fear the dramas will continue as parties fight over orders. We are back in Napster territory again.


One quote from the decision that's making the rounds in many a mainstream media piece:

"It seems that Kazaa users are predominately young people, the effect of [Kazaa's] web page [with the slogan, 'Join the Revolution'] would be to encourage visitors to think it 'cool' to defy the record companies by ignoring constraints."

In other words, it's not cool to make copyright infringement sound cool.

KaZaA has announced that it will appeal the ruling.

Update (September 8): The discussion continues @ Madisonian Theory, Freedom to Tinker, and (of course) Weatherall's Law.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations


COMMENTS

1. Marc Freedman, RazorPop on September 5, 2005 6:49 PM writes...

Given the difference in US and Australia law, it's hard to see exactly how this affects us in the States

Still, the ruling is chilling in its clear anti-innovation and anti-consumer aspects, which could just as easily apply to instant messaging software, broadband Internet access, or other technology that can be misused.

> The ruling does not make individuals responsible for their use of Kazaa software.

> The ruling forces Kazaa to be responsible for and directly control the use of the software.

> The ruling criticized Kazaa for attacking the major record companies and their stance on copyright. So much for free speech.

More at
http://www.p2p-weblog.com/50226711/australian_judge_rules_in_favor_of_recording_industry.php

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2. James Quintana Pearce on September 7, 2005 11:15 PM writes...

"The ruling criticized Kazaa for attacking the major record companies and their stance on copyright. So much for free speech."

Australia doesn't have a "right to free speech", except that provided by various rulings. Depending on the state, something has to be true and "in the public interest", which wouldn't include inciting people to break the law.

I don't know exactly what was written in the Kazaa page, so I don't know if it could be defendec under this criteria...

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