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Australian company buys KaZaa, reinstate service

An Australian firm said yesterday that it has purchased and restarted KaZaa, the Dutch-born Internet file-sharing program that the world’s biggest media companies have sued for becoming the new Napster. Sharman Networks Ltd., a privately held multimedia company, purchased certain assets of KaZaa BV, including the popular KaZaa Media Desktop file- sharing program, Sharman chief executive officer Nikki Hemming said in a news release.

KaZaa stopped all downloads of the free Media Desktop program last week pending a Dutch judge’s ruling in a copyright infringement case filed against the company in the Netherlands.

But Sharman Networks resumed downloads yesterday morning, restarting a ticker on the KaZaa home page that had already counted 30 million downloads and continued to log about two new users per second.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to resume the KaZaa service and further develop the KaZaa brand,” Hemming said in the news release. “We value the millions of users of KaZaa’s software and will continue to enhance and grow our core offerings.”

KaZaa BV created FastTrack, the underlying online file-sharing technology used for the Media Desktop and licensed for use in two other programs: Morpheus, by Tennessee’s MusicCity Networks Inc.; and Grokster, from a firm in the West Indies.

The three programs form a network of online file sharers that now rivals Napster at its peak before a San Francisco judge’s order forced the Redwood City company to stop. The world’s biggest recording, music publishing and motion picture companies have since sued KaZaa, MusicCity and Grokster, saying the FastTrack network allows mass music and movie piracy.

U.S. publicists representing Sharman Networks had few details about Hemming or her plans for KaZaa.

A notice on KaZaa’s home page noted that “the original brains behind KaZaa have moved on to develop new innovative software.” KaZaa co-founder and CEO Niklas Zennstrom could not be reached for comment.

The note also said, “The team now running KaZaa will continue to deliver the best technology for finding, saving and transferring all the data you want:

no limits.”

However, the home page also had a new admonishment about copyright infringement that read, “KaZaa does not condone activities and actions that breach the copyright of artists and copyright owners – as a KaZaa user you are bound by the KaZaa Terms of Use and laws governing copyright in each country.”

A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America had no immediate comment. Representatives for the Motion Picture Association of America were unvailable for comment.

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