Kazaa Ruling Delayed

Federal Judge Stephen Wilson disappointed lawyers representing movie studios and music publishers Monday when he decided to delay a ruling on whether or not the file swapping service operated by Kazaa can be sued in the U.S.

The delay was part of a larger suit for copyright infringement brought by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against a number of file swapping companies, including Tennessee’s MusicCity.com, Inc. and MusicCity Networks, Inc. (which runs the popular Morpheus service), and West Indies-based Grokster, LTD.

The massive lawsuit, which has been dubbed Napster II, also seeks to include Kazaa, but because Kazaa’s parent company, Sharman Networks, maintains headquarters in Australia and incorporation on the island of Vanuatu, its lawyers have argued it should not be subject to a U.S. lawsuit.

Last week, Wilson heard oral arguments from both sides on the extent of Kazaa’s contact with the United States to determine if it can be subject to U.S. copyright laws and said he “would be inclined to find there’s jurisdiction against Sharman.” Lawyers on both sides anticipated Wilson would make his ruling on Monday.

Instead, Wilson said he needed more time to study the legal issues.

The music and movie empires claim the sites are costing the industries billions, and the entertainment industry has been unrelenting in its legal and legislature assault on what it considers to be largest heist in the history of intellectual property rights. The RIAA attorneys contend that Kazaa’s peer-to-peer network is used by about 21 million users in the U.S. to share digital files.

David Kendall, a lawyer representing a consortium of movie studios, says Kazaa’s easy availability is enough reason for the judge to rule it can be sued in a U.S. court.

In addition to its off-shore status, Sharman counsel David Casselman argued that Kazaa should not be held liable for copyright infringement, pointing out that PC makers aren’t responsible for the actions of destructive hackers.

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