Sharman challenges raids' validity

Kazaa's owner says searches of its Australian offices last week were 'the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb'

Lawyers representing Sharman Networks on Tuesday informed the Federal Court of Australia they intend to challenge the validity of the court order that resulted in raids at several locations across Australia last week.

Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) obtained court orders on Friday to search 12 sites across Australia to hunt for evidence of copyright infringement. One of the targets of the searches was Sharman, owner of popular peer-to-peer software Kazaa.

Describing the Anton Pillar order as "the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb," lawyers representing Sharman Networks allege that the record labels did not disclose all relevant matters to the judge when applying for the order. An Anton Pillar order allows a copyright holder to enter premises to search for and seize material that breaches copyright without alerting the target beforehand.

"We're outraged that this process has been necessary; full disclosure would have prevented this entirely," said David Casselman, a lawyer representing Sharman Networks in its ongoing US court case. "We've asked to set aside the Anton Pillar order and to stay the litigation until the US litigation is resolved, at which stage we suspect there'll be no need for this litigation."

Sharman Networks claimed Justice Murray Wilcox was not informed that Sharman Networks had agreed to submit to depositions and cooperate fully with the US case MGM v Grokster et al, which involves actions by movie studios and record companies against peer-to-peer services over alleged copyright-infringing activities.

Michael Speck, managing director of MIPI, was unconcerned. "I'm not surprised by that strategy," Speck said. "We're comfortable with the action we've taken and confident of a successful outcome."

The arguments will be heard on 20 February before Wilcox, the judge who granted the Anton Pillar order. The case has been bought by Universal Music Australia, Festival Records, EMI Music Australia, Sony Music Australia, Warner Music Australia and BMG Australia against Sharman License Holdings, Sharman Networks, LEF Interactive, Sharman chief executive Nicola Hemming and Sharman director of technology Phil Morle.

In addition to the respondents, Anton Pillar orders were also served on Brilliant Digital Entertainment and its owner Kevin Burmeister, the University of Queensland, Monash University and the University of New South Wales, Telstra, Akamai Technologies, NTT Australia and The Internet Group in order to obtain evidence to use against Sharman Networks.

The universities on Friday challenged the Anton Pillar order, and the parties agreed the information obtained under the order would be kept confidential until a further order was made.

A submission to the court was also made by one of the independent solicitors attending the execution of the Anton Pillar order relating to "extraordinary events" at one of the locations. It is believed the submission related to an alleged assault on the solicitors during the execution of the Anton Pillar order at the offices of Brilliant Digital Entertainment.

The case has attracted intense international attention, a fact that was not lost on the multitude of people packed into the courtroom. In addition to local press and lawyers representing all parties, Sharman Networks had flown in their US counsel for the event and the Los Angeles Times deemed the occasion important enough to send a staff reporter.

ZDNet Australia's James Pearce reported from Sydney. For more coverage on ZDNet Australia, click here.