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A native of Romania who claims to have written the source code to the popular file-sharing software Kazaa is suing the program’s distributor over the rights to the software and seeking $25 million in compensation. Kazaa Media Desktop, which enables users to connect online over a so-called peer-to-peer network, is used by millions to swap music, movies, software and other files. The practice has drawn the ire of Hollywood film studios, recording companies and other copyright holders. In the federal lawsuit, Fabian Toader, who now lives in Redmond, Wash., claims he wrote the computer code for the Kazaa program in 2000 while working in Romania on a freelance basis for Kazaa B.V., which sold the rights to the software in 2002 to Sharman Networks Ltd. Toader claims he never signed a contract with Kazaa B.V. and asserts that, under copyright laws in the United States and Romania, he is the copyright owner of the program, and not Sharman Networks. Toader, now a programmer for Microsoft, seeks a judgment confirming his rights to the program and $25 million in damages. “Sharman has made millions using my software,” Toader said in a statement Tuesday. “I just want to be fairly compensated for my contribution.” The latest version of Kazaa has been downloaded more than 335 million times from Download.com since it was uploaded to the site on Nov. 19. A spokesman for Sydney, Australia-based Sharman disputed Toader’s assertion that he owns the rights to the program. “The work done by Fabian Toader on early versions of the Kazaa Media Desktop software was done under a work for hire agreement that expressly states that Kazaa B.V. owned all rights to any work related to the development of the software,” said Rich Chernela, a Sharman spokesman. The lawsuit, which was filed March 4 in Los Angeles, is only the latest volley of litigation between Toader and Sharman. In August, Sharman sued Toader in Washington State Superior Court, alleging he tried to blackmail the company. The court granted Sharman an injunction against him, Chernela said. “Sharman regards this recently filed Los Angeles law suit as nothing more than Mr. Toader’s most recent shakedown effort,” Chernela said. Toader countersued later that month in federal court in Seattle, then opted to dismiss the case without prejudice in February and refiled it in Los Angeles, said attorney Marc Fenster. Sharman has been the target of lawsuits and from entertainment companies bent on shutting down its operation, and file-sharing in general, which they say has resulted in millions in lost sales. A federal case brought by the entertainment firms against Sharman in Los Angeles is pending the outcome of a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a ruling that cleared two other companies of liability for the unauthorized sharing of files by users of their software. In February, investigators with the Australian recording industry raided the company’s offices in Sydney and two executives’ homes hunting evidence to support a copyright infringement case. In December, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that Kazaa’s Netherlands division cannot be held liable for copyright infringement of music or movies swapped using its free software. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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