Sharman exec calls child porn unstoppable

Chief technology officer testifies user access to Kazaa couldn't be blocked, despite the company's zero-tolerance policy on child porn.

Sharman Networks' chief technology officer has refuted a claim on the Kazaa Web site that the company could "permanently bar" users who are using its peer-to-peer software to distribute child pornography.

Philip Morle told the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday that he did not believe Sharman could actually block user access to Kazaa as stated in the company's zero-tolerance policy on child pornography.

The owners of Kazaa have on their Web site a "no-tolerance policy with respect to child pornography and other obscene material" and say they have the right to "permanently bar" users and their computers from accessing Kazaa and other Kazaa services."

Morle, however, said he did not know how permanently barring users from accessing the Kazaa system could be done and he claimed he had never seen Kazaa's child pornography policy before.

The testimony is part of a trial in which major record labels Universal Music Australia, EMI, Sony/BMG, Warner, Festival Mushroom and 25 additional applicants are suing Sharman Networks and associated parties--including Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Altnet, Sharman Networks CEO Nikki Hemming and others--over alleged music copyright infringement made using the Kazaa software. The trial, which started last week, is taking place in Sydney.

Morle's remarks in the trial came after Sharman Networks' Executive Vice President Alan Morris faced a U.S. Senate judiciary committee in September last year that tackled issues of pornography in a peer-to-peer environment. In Morris' speech, he mentioned Sharman's zero-tolerance policy against child pornography.

"It should be noted that, while we support user privacy, Sharman Networks Limited has not chosen to use methods of providing anonymity to users that could hinder the legitimate quests for purveyors of obscene material by law enforcement agencies," Morris' statement said.

Sharman's porn filter was described during the U.S. Senate hearings as "the most comprehensive and effective, password-protected, family filter available with any P2P software application."

Morle also revealed Friday that he had been "constantly looking at ways to inhibit infringement" of unlicensed music files.

"I've spent a lot of time thinking about filtering and considering how that would be done and I haven't gotten to a position where what I've reported can and can't be done has caused my superiors to want me to try anything," Morle said.

Universal Music Australia parties' lead barrister, Tony Bannon, questioned Morle on his claim, stating that the Sharman parties have not produced any documentation demonstrating any attempt to try to introduce filters to the Kazaa system.

Morle said his efforts had not been committed to paper because he had only been discussing them verbally with Sharman Networks Chief Executive Officer Nikki Hemming and other executives.

Bannon questioned Morle's knowledge of the cancellation of a Web server in Denmark in 2002 which had collected around 15 million e-mails from various Kazaa users worldwide. In a graphic illustration, Morle was asked to demonstrate a live link to a Web server in Denmark which collects data on Kazaa users by invoking a "special command line."

Morle said that as far as he knows, the Denmark Web server had been phased out and he was not aware that it is still functioning. He added that he was not familiar with the software being used and therefore could not comment on the process further.

"This is a very administrative unimportant piece of software that a junior programmer developed?there's no need for me to be involved with this kind of stuff. It's not something that I need to do. It's a very small piece of software that automates the recording of statistics that are publicly available in the Kazaa application and that's all it is?I wasn't aware that the computer was still in operation, I thought it's already been phased out," Morle said.

Morle also maintained that he did not deliberately damage his laptop during the execution of the Anton Piller orders (or civil search warrant) in February to prevent access to its content.

"I have nothing to hide on what was on that laptop. It was my belief that it was destroyed by the process, not by myself and I wasn't even in the room at that time," he said.

Other witnesses put on the stand on Thursday included David Thompson, national director of the Deloitte Forensic Technology Group, who confirmed that when the Kazaa software is installed, it includes a "pre-defined list of 200 Internet IP addresses of current or former supernodes within the Kazaa system."

A supernode contains a list of some of the files made available by other Kazaa users and where they are located. Kazaa users with the fastest Internet connections and the most powerful computers become the supernodes. When user performs a search, Kazaa first searches the nearest supernode to the user and sends the user immediate results.

Thompson added that the list of supernode addresses was regularly updated during the operation of the software and was used in the provision of results in response to Kazaa user's search requests.

Thompson said he observed evidence of communications taking place when the Kazaa software operates on a user's computer, and when the user attempts to uninstall the software. "These include the sending of statistical or other information regarding user activity or identity. Such information is sent by users' computers to remote systems, such as supernodes within the Kazaa system and the Web site and may be available to the operators of such remote systems."

He added that Internet IP addresses are useful to identify specific devices on the Internet--such as computers of particular Kazaa users--"despite the fact that they sometimes change."

Kristyn Maslog-Levis of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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