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Kazaa picks up the speed with update

A new version of the popular file-swapping software comes with download recommendations, faster search results and other features.

Australia's Sharman Networks on Monday unveiled a new version of its popular Kazaa file-swapping software.

The update, called Kazaa Media Desktop 1.5, comes with a new function for download recommendations, faster search results, faster start-up time and an automated feature that lets people communicate with contacts, according to the developer.

Like its notorious cousin Napster, Kazaa has been targeted in lawsuits from the recording and motion picture industries, which charge that its peer-to-peer technology enables unauthorized distribution of copyright works. But unlike Napster, which has essentially been forced by the courts to block the swapping of all copyrighted music, Kazaa continues to function as though it's business as usual.

"Kazaa has a reputation for cutting-edge functionality, and this upgrade means we strengthen our position at the forefront of the P2P market," Chief Executive Nikki Hemming said in a statement.

The relaunch comes just weeks after the software's former Dutch owner, Consumer Empowerment, suspended downloads of the software from its Web site in response to legal threats in the Netherlands and sold the service to Sharman. However, Kazaa users reportedly were able to continue sharing files over the network, which requires no support other than an Internet connection.

The software faces other legal tests. In October, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) sued Kazaa and other popular file-swapping services Morpheus and Grokster. The suit alleged the services were aiding copyright infringement.

News.com's John Borland contributed to this report.