Kazaa purchase exposed in copyright trial

Australian judge throws out request to block access to a document that specifies how much Sharman Networks paid for Kazaa.

An Australian judge has thrown out a request to block media and music industry access to a document that specifies how much Sharman Networks paid for the Kazaa peer-to-peer software.

The lawyer for Altnet, a company allegedly associated with Sharman, had asked the court to make the order in relation to numerous documents originally seized last year under civil search orders.

Federal Court Justice Murray Wilcox rejected the request this week.

Major record labels Universal Music Australia, EMI, Sony/BMG, Warner, Festival Mushroom and 25 additional applicants are suing Sharman and associated parties--including Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Altnet, Sharman CEO Nikki Hemming and others--over alleged music copyright infringement made through the Kazaa software.

Altnet lawyer Jocelyn Wilks had asserted that Altnet is now competing commercially with record companies because they place music online and that the competitors should not have access to Altnet documents containing technical specifications.

"With respect to whether a technical document is current or not doesn't necessarily mean that it may not still contain confidential or commercially sensitive information. I should also say that the applicants are now in the position of being commercial competitors of our client," Wilks said.

She said the record companies are in competition with Altnet because they are "developing similar sorts of technology and putting music online." Her claim was rejected by Richard Cobden, counsel for the record companies.

One of the documents for which a request for confidentiality was rejected was the purchase of Kazaa by Sharman. According to the document, Sharman paid about $780,000 to buy the operation in 2002.

Sharman counsel Tony Meagher argued that the contract should not be made public, especially the clause stating how much Sharman paid for Kazaa.

However, Wilcox rejected that argument. "If perhaps the contract was not yet completed, so that there may be some worry about somebody else in the market coming in and causing problems, I would agree with you," Wilcox said. "But this is a sale that took place some three years ago, and it's been long since completed, and the money, presumably, has been long since paid."

Wilcox declined to make public further parts of invoice documents sent by Phillips Fox, the law firm formerly representing Sharman, to the Sharman companies.

Closing arguments will start on March 22.

Kristyn Maslog-Levis of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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