RIAA victim sues Kazaa

Woman alleges that p2p software encouraged piracy and exposed users to legal action

Simon Aughton
8 Dec 2006

A woman who paid 'compensation' to the US music industry for sharing music files has filed a lawsuit against Sharman Networks, the maker of the Kazaa peer-to-peer software.

Catherine Lewan alleges fraudulent misrepresentation, deceptive trade practices and consumer fraud against Sharman, alleging that the company is directly responsible for copyright violations made by Kazaa users.

In the Chicago, Illinois court filing, Lewan claims that Sharman 'deceptively' marketed Kazaa to suggest that it allowed free, legal downloads. She says that Sharman encouraged users to store copies of copyright material and created a 'share folder' to make this material available to anyone on the Kazaa network, and did so without informing the user.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that Sharman 'designed the Kazaa software to install...spyware...for nefarious purposes', again without the user's knowledge.

Sharman, the filing says, 'designed the software to be nearly impossible to eradicate from a user's computer. Consequently, an individual's share folder would remain accessible to the Kazaa Network after the software had been removed'.

By automatically sharing the files in the shared folder, Lewan asserts, Kazaa 'exposed its users to claims of copyright infringement.'

Lewan claims damages in excess of $75,000.

Sharman recently settled all legal disputes with the music industry to the tune of $115 million and a commitment to rid its network of pirated content, although by that stage Kazaa had been eclipsed by newer file sharing networks, such as BearShare and Limewire, and by BitTorrent.

As P2pnet notes, legal action by Kazaa's users was only a matter of time, not least because it 'seems to be almost always front and centre in every Big Four Organized Music cartel sue 'em all case'.

'Lewan is the first to name Kazaa specifically, but she won't be the last,' the pro-file sharing website says, before adding a note of caution.

'When Sharman paid $115 million in Kazaa settlement fees, we wondered what would happen to the personal information it has on millions of people around the world,' it says. 'We still wonder.'

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