Kazaa forced to block search terms

The music industry has landed another win against the peer-to-peer network

Eminem, Madonna and Kylie Minogue are just some of the popular artists whose songs are to be blocked from being illegally distributed on the peer-to-peer network Kazaa, following orders issued by an Australian federal court yesterday.

Justice Murray Wilcox has ordered the owner of Kazaa, Sharman Networks, to modify the file-sharing software to block a list of search terms — primarily artist and song names — to be supplied by the record companies. Justice Wilcox's order follows the record companies' court victory in September against individuals and organisations associated with Kazaa.

The court has ordered Sharman to release a new version of Kazaa by 5 December that includes a non-optional keyword filter, restricting users' ability to illegally access and swap copyright music.

The record companies may also update the list of search terms every two weeks. Once Sharman receives the updated list, it has 48 hours to act on the changes.

Justice Wilcox also ordered in a hearing yesterday that dialogue boxes appear on the Kazaa Web site "to place maximum pressure on KMD [Kazaa Media Desktop] users to obtain the updated release".

Nominating the 3,000 keywords is an interim measure ahead of Sharman's appeal in February of the trial ruling.

"On one hand I want to protect the applicants as well as I can, but without damaging the respondents," Wilcox said.

The record companies have a list of 10,000 keywords they want Kazaa to block user access to, according to counsel for the record companies, Tony Bannon, who described the 3,000 measure as "woefully inadequate".

Wilcox had previously ordered Sharman to modify Kazaa to include keyword search filters, which would block popular songs, by 5 December.

However the Sharman parties' legal team claimed audio fingerprinting technology from United States company Audible Magic, would provide more effective filtering. They cited Wilcox's judgement in September, which allowed that the modifications to Kazaa could include more effective solutions than keyword filtering.

Audio fingerprinting works by capturing characteristics of songs that can be compared with files on a peer-to-peer network, rather than relying on file name or format.

"Audible Magic involves getting the fingerprints for all songs," said a QC acting for Sharman, John Ireland. "You put a black box between two peers and if someone wants to copy something on the list, you can't do it," he said.

However, Sharman's legal team acknowledged implementing audio fingerprinting though would require major change to Kazaa's architecture and asked that the deadline for modifying the software be extended until March to allow this.

"This Audible Magic thing is something that [former music piracy investigator] Mister [Michael] Speck's known about for years," said Ireland.

However, the record companies' legal team described the technology as "ineffective".

Justice Wilcox acknowledged the remarks, saying "reading what the registrar [from an earlier hearing] said about it, this sounds like the solution to all the problems".

However, after noting that Audible Magic's technologies had not been mentioned previously in the case, he disallowed, for now, Sharman's push for it to replace keyword search terms.

Sharman would have to persuade the court that Audible Magic was more effective than keyword filtering in order for it to become the required modification, said Wilcox.

"Audible Magic sounds fantastic, but magic is often illusory," he said.