Sharman defends makers of file-swapping software

Firms that provide file-swapping software are the same as manufacturers of video recorders, the owner of Kazaa has argued in a filing to a US court

Australian-headquartered file-sharing software company Sharman Networks has filed papers with the US Court of Appeals urging it to uphold an order it made in April.

The order, by Judge Stephen Wilson found that Grokster and StreamCast, makers of peer-to-peer software, could not be held liable for the file-swapping shenanigans of their users. That ruling is under attack from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which claims the judge erred. Sharman, the makers of Kazaa, on Wednesday hit back on behalf of the software companies, claiming the RIAA's move threatens consumers and US citizen's right to freedoms afforded to them under the US constitution's First Amendment.

"The US entertainment industry's appeal to change copyright law... would inexorably extend their copyright monopolies, chill new technology development, and threaten First Amendment protections," a company statement read.

Wilson had found that file-swapping technology was similar to photocopiers or home video recorders -- technologies that have both legal and illegal uses. "[The] defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends," Wilson wrote. "Grokster and StreamCast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights."

A statement issued by Sharman says the RIAA's appeal also has potential to stifle innovation and development surrounding Internet-based technologies. In the statement, the company quoted the Computer and Communications Industry Association as saying the RIAA wants to introduce "new standards that would as a practical matter give the entertainment industry a veto power over the development of innovative products and services."

These sentiments are echoed by Sharman's chief executive, Nikki Hemming, who says the issue is bigger than the entertainment world. "This case is not just about the rights of the entertainment industry, but the rights of individuals to freedom of speech and expression, the right for P2P to exist, and ultimately, the right of any emerging technology to develop without the threat of myopic extinction," she said in a statement. "There is no justification for one stakeholder group to demand that its rights outweigh all others, nor should the desires of one industry attempt to shape the progress of technology."