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RIAA, file-swappers ask for trial's end

Both sides want to end the copyright infringement lawsuit against popular file-swapping services Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster quickly--they just disagree on who should win.

Both sides want to end the copyright infringement lawsuit against popular file-swapping services Kazaa, Morpheus and Grokster quickly--they just disagree on who should win.

Attorneys for the record labels, movie studios and music publishers trade groups filed papers Monday asking a federal judge for summary judgment, or a ruling against the file-swapping companies before going to a full trial. The groups submitted sealed arguments they said stemmed from six months of investigation proving the file-swapping companies knowingly contributed to widespread copyright infringement.

All three companies have done their best to emulate Napster's success, creating "candy stores of infringement that allow a user to find the most popular music and movies of our time without paying any of the rights holders," the trade groups said.

Also Monday, lawyers for Morpheus' parent company StreamCast Networks asked the judge to rule quickly in their favor, saying that Morpheus had too many legal uses to be shut down in response to illegal file-traders' actions.

The lawsuit over Kazaa and the other services is viewed by many in the legal and technology communities as potentially even more influential than the suit that ultimately forced predecessor Napster out of business.

Kazaa, Grokster and, at one time, Morpheus all were built on the same underlying technology, created by a Netherlands-based team of programmers, which some argue makes the case less clear-cut than was Napster's trial.

That technology, dubbed FastTrack, allowed people to swap virtually any type of digital file they wanted, including video, software and music files. Moreover, like the Gnutella technology used by LimeWire, Bearshare and newer versions of Morpheus, FastTrack was decentralized, requiring no company to help serve as a middleman for swaps or searches.

Because the system is so open-ended, and the companies have no immediate control over the networks, the case may help uphold the rights of companies to distribute file-swapping software if they aren't directly involved in the trading, peer-to-peer advocates hope.

Record and movie industry trade groups say the companies have been "acutely aware" of widespread piracy on the file-swapping networks, however.

The trade group's filing of a sealed brief Monday was an unusual step. Most of the legal papers filed in the course of the past several years of lawsuits have been immediately open, even when containing internal company e-mails.

However, the industry trade groups said they had filed their motion under seal "in deference to the confidential evidence designated by (the) defendants." The groups will work to have the legal briefs unsealed over the next few days, they said.

Last week carried a double dose of bad news for committed file-swappers, as a Napster loss in bankruptcy court saw that company shut its doors and lay off most of its employees, and a judge's ruling against Madster (formerly known as Aimster) promised to bar all music trades on that service.