Sharman owner called out from shadows

Lawyers are asked to reveal the anonymous figure controlling file-sharing service Kazaa and its parent company.

Lawyers were asked on Tuesday to reveal the identity of the owner of Sharman Networks, parent company of file-sharing service Kazaa, as the company faced copyright infringement allegations in Sydney, Australia.

Lawyers for Universal Music Australia called on Sharman in Australian federal court 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."

The public face of Sharman to date has been CEO Nikki Hemming.

"Miss Hemming seems to be a key player...on whose behalf is she playing?" Wilcox asked. "Who is controlling these activities?"

The notice issued to Sharman's counsel kicked off the official process of discovery in the case, which has been hotly debated since the offices of Sharman, its affiliates, and other individuals and companies were raided with potential 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," the request stated. The first respondent to the case is Sharman Licence Holdings, and the second is Sharman Networks.

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

Wilcox retorted that "it's not as though this (case) is not is not an unreasonable thing for the applicants to know who it is that's controlling the system."

A company called Worldwide Nominees 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. 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 Nov. 29.

Abby Dinham of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.