Lawyers began their final arguments today in a landmark music piracy case against global file-sharing giant Kazaa.
A group of Australian record labels is suing the makers of Kazaa, Sharman Networks Ltd, and the company’s directors in the Federal Court in Sydney for copyright infringements by the network’s estimated 100 million members worldwide.
Record industry lawyers claim Kazaa users download up to three billion files each month, freely exchanging songs, music and television programmes without paying royalties to the copyright owners.
The record companies want the file-sharing network declared liable for copyright infringement and loss of income in the case. If they are successful, a second trial will probably be held later this year to set damages.
But lawyers for Kazaa’s owners maintain that while they urge users not to commit music piracy, they have no control over what people do with the popular ”peer-to-peer” software they provide.
The defence lawyers contend Kazaa’s owners cannot be held directly responsible for illegal copying by its members – just as the makers of video recorders and photocopiers cannot be blamed for copying done on their machines.
The entertainment industry has also sued file-sharing services for copyright infringement in the US.
Two federal courts in California have cleared Grokster Ltd and StreamCast Networks of liability, although the industry has appealed to the US Supreme Court. Sharman is named in a similar suit whose ruling is pending in a lower court.
Kazaa won a similar case in the Netherlands in 2003, when the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that Kazaa could not be held liable for copyright infringement in that country.
Closing arguments from both sides of the case are expected to wrap up tomorrow and a final decision is expected in four to six weeks.
The trial is being heard by a judge without a jury.