Antipiracy group targets Kazaa parent

An investigator for a music industry organization serves papers on Sharman Networks at its headquarters in Vanuatu, as the group searches several sites across Australia.

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An investigator for a music industry group on Monday formally served papers on Sharman Networks at its headquarters in Vanuatu related to a just-launched Australian copyright infringement case.

On Friday, Music Industry Piracy Investigations obtained court orders to search 12 sites across Australia to hunt down evidence of copyright infringement. One of the targets of the searches was Sharman, owner of popular peer-to-peer software Kazaa.

"As a formality you always serve the papers on the registered company as well," MIPI manager Michael Speck told ZDNet Australia. Sharman Networks incorporated itself in the island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific to capitalize on tax efficiencies.

MIPI also targeted Brilliant Digital Entertainment, the owner of peer-to-peer technology company Altnet, which partners with Sharman to offer authorized content over the Kazaa network.

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"It is ironic that the music industry would target Brilliant Digital Entertainment in its attacks against online piracy when the business and technology of BDE subsidiary Altnet are expressly designed for authorized distribution of online content," said Altnet in a statement.

"Altnet works on behalf of major independent labels, video game companies, and prominent software firms and film studios to securely sell digital media to the largest Internet audience with a near zero cost of distribution," the company said. "Altnet is far and away the largest distributor of licensed digital media in the world."

Despite the attack, Altnet is still keen to partner with the major record labels to distribute their music content via peer-to-peer technology. "Altnet remains committed to the commercialization of P2P, and our door is still open to the major record labels and film studios," the company said. MIPI represents several major record labels in Australia.

In a series of raids last week, hunting for evidence of copyright-infringing activity involving peer-to-peer companies, MIPI also targeted the homes of key executives of Sharman Networks and Brilliant Digital; the University of Queensland, Monash University and the University of New South Wales; and four Internet service providers.

MIPI declined to comment why certain ISPs and universities were singled out for the searches. "The targeting was based on matters that had arisen during the course of the investigation," Speck said.

It is likely that MIPI was searching for content hosted on servers that supported their case.

MIPI and the defendants are scheduled to appear in the Federal Court before Justice Murray Wilcox on Tuesday.

James Pearce of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.