Sharman Networks' owner called out from shadows

Sharman Networks' lawyers have been asked to reveal the identity of the company's owner for the first time, as the parent company of the file sharing software Kazaa faced copyright infringement allegations in the Federal Court in Sydney today.Universal Music parties' lawyers called upon Sharman Networks to reveal the anonymous figure controlling the corporation in its request for evidential discovery.

Sharman Networks' lawyers have been asked to reveal the identity of the company's owner for the first time, as the parent company of the file sharing software Kazaa faced copyright infringement allegations in the Federal Court in Sydney today.

Universal Music parties' lawyers called upon Sharman Networks to reveal the anonymous figure controlling the corporation in its request for evidential discovery. Justice Murray Wilcox agreed, saying this "was not an unusual request".

"Miss Hemming [chief executive officer and the public face of Sharman thus far] seems to be a key player ... on whose behalf is she playing," said Wilcox. "Who is controlling these activities?"

The discovery notice issued to Sharman Networks' counsel kicked off the official process of discovery in the case, which has been hotly debated since the premises of Sharman Networks, its affiliates and other individuals and companies were raided and evidence confiscated last February.

The request submitted to Sharman from Universal's lawyers called for the respondents to give details of the "ownership and control structure of the corporate respondents, the financial and managerial aspects of the various relationships and the historical background to these arrangements".

"Discovery of the documents in these categories is particularly important given that the first and second respondents appear to have been incorporated pursuant to the International Company of Vanuatu," stated the request. The first respondent to the case is Sharman Licence Holdings and the second Sharman Networks.

However, the counsel for Sharman, Bob Ellicott QC, objected to the request, saying it was irrelevant to the case.

However, Wilcox retorted that "it's not as though this is not controversial [referring to the case]...it is not an unreasonable thing for the applicants to know who it is that's controlling the system".

A company called Worldwide Nominees Ltd was named as the sole director of Sharman Networks (of Port Vila) last week during correspondence between the two parties over the process of discovery.

The shareholders of the company remain publicly anonymous -- however the director has been named as a Geoffrey R. Gee.

The points of discovery were debated by both parties today. Each of the parties were ordered to redraft their applications as the process of discovery continues. A hearing of the case is tentatively scheduled for 29 November.

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