Music titans accused of trying to monopolize distribution

Kazaa owners respond to copyright suit

January 29, 2003|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

LOS ANGELES - AOL Time Warner Inc., Sony Corp. and other entertainment companies are trying to monopolize the distribution of films and music over the Internet, the owners of the Kazaa file-sharing network say in court papers.

Sharman Networks made its claims in response to a copyright-infringement suit filed by AOL, Sony and other companies in 2001.

Aiming to avoid the fate of Napster Inc., Sharman seeks a court order to stop the companies from suing to enforce their copyrights.

The entertainment industry, which claims that downloads of music, movies and video games deprives it of billions of dollars in sales each year, has succeeded in getting U.S. courts to shut down Napster and similar file-swapping services.

"Sharman and its cohort Kazaa, which built the world's largest piracy network premised on flouting copyright laws and not obtaining licenses, now claim that a lack of licensing has somehow inhibited their development," the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group that represents the five largest record labels, said in a statement.

Sharman said in papers filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that the industry "obscenely overreached and engaged in a concerted and organized pattern of wrongful conduct" in trying "to simultaneously stop illegal copying and to maintain their dominant position" in distributing music and movies.

Marta Grutka, a spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America, called Sharman's claims "another tactic to detract from the underlying issue of their ongoing illegal pirating activity."

Other targets of copyright-infringement suits by the entertainment companies have tried a similar defense.

More than 60 million people in 150 countries have used Sharman's Kazaa Web site, which is more traffic than Napster enjoyed at its peak.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled this month that Kazaa, which is based in Australia and incorporated in the island nation of Vanuatu, can be sued in U.S. courts.

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