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The owners of file-swapping giant Kazaa claimed Tuesday their software, which allows users to exchange copyrighted music and movies online, is no different than video recorders, as they launched their defense in a landmark music piracy case in Australia. Lawyer Tony Meagher was outlining his defense strategy on the second day of a civil case in which the Australian recording industry is suing Kazaa’s owners for widespread copyright infringements by the global network’s estimated 100 million members. Kazaa members download 3 billion files each month, record industry lawyers said Monday. Those files can include songs, movies and other copyrighted material. Meagher cited a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which said electronics giant Sony wasn’t liable when people used its Betamax videocassette recorder to copy movies illegally because the technology had significant uses that did not violate copyrights. The same case was cited in August when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that two other leading file-swapping networks, Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc. are not legally liable for the songs, movies and other copyright works their users swap online. “It is plain (Kazaa) has lawful uses,” Meagher told Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox. In another key element of the defendants’ defense in the three-week trial, Meagher said that even though the peer-to-peer software that underpins Kazaa allows users to breach copyright, the owners of Kazaa do not authorize piracy and cannot stop it. “We are not in a position to control and we do not control use,” Meagher said. A license agreement that all Kazaa users have to agree to before downloading the Kazaa software tells them they must not use the network to distribute copyrighted material, but the record industry says Kazaa makes no effort to enforce the agreement. Earlier, recording industry lawyer Tony Bannon told the court that Kazaa has a policy banning child pornography files from its network and pledging to eject from the network any person caught distributing child porn. Bannon said that if Kazaa could kick users off its network for child porn distribution, then it should also be able to take the same course of action for people sharing copyrighted material. No decision is expected in the case before next year. If the 10 companies and individuals behind Kazaa and its software are ruled liable for copyright infringements, a separate hearing will be held to decide the level of damages. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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