Sharman Networks, owner of Kazaa, countering the legal body blow delivered by a federal judge last week, filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against the major record labels and the movie studios claiming that they have “obscenely” abused their copyright powers. I just like the sound of that, “obscene” being such a charged word – it proves Sharman is willing to fight fire with fire, or “piracy” with “obscenity” as the case may be.
- Sharman claims that major entertainment companies have colluded to drive potential online rivals out of business. The conduct should preclude the industry from being able to defend its copyrights in court, at least until the behavior is corrected, Sharman contends.
The entertainment industry considers Sharman to be as much an outlaw as Napster and Aimster, two file-sharing services that have been shuttered. But Sharman executives say their business is fundamentally different because the company was created to take advantage of legal online distribution.
“What the industry is incapable of doing is realizing that Kazaa is different,” said Sharman attorney Rod Dorman. “Now (they) have got to face the legal consequences.”
….The “legal consequences” Sharman is seeking are potentially severe. Sharman is asking the judge to declare the copyright holders guilty of antitrust and related violations, and to bar them from enforcing any of their copyrights.
According to the lawsuit, Sharman and a partner called Altnet met repeatedly with movie and music industry executives over the course of 2002, seeking to license copy-protected content for online distribution. Providing legal, authorized versions of popular entertainment content would help mitigate piracy on the file-swapping system, Sharman and Altnet said.
A few industry executives were interested, but were “repeatedly instructed” not to pursue relationships with Sharman or Altnet by the Recording Industry Association of America and other trade groups, attorneys for Sharman said.
It’s a great move that puts the industry back on the defensive. Listen to this lame reply from the RIAA:
- “Sharman and its cohort Kazaa, which built the world’s largest piracy network, premised on flouting copyright laws and not obtaining licensees, now claim that a lack of licensing has somehow inhibited their development,” an RIAA representative said. “This proposition is laughable, but the real harm to creators and copyright owners is no joking matter.”
Whenever you feel threatened, call the threat “laughable.” The best defense is a good offense: this is becoming interesting.
- Sharman’s counterclaim alleges copyright misuse, monopolization, and deceptive acts and practices.
“In seeking to simultaneously stop illegal copying and to maintain their dominant position in the distribution of musical and movie content, the industry plaintiffs have obscenely overreached,” Sharman said.
It seeks a jury trial, damages, attorney fees and a permanent injunction against the entertainment industry so that it can’t “enforce any of their United States copyrights against any person or entity.”
Sharman said the entertainment companies are behind the times and don’t realize that consumers need not buy CDs, DVDs or videotapes to enjoy music or films.
Sharman also claimed that movie studios “dominate and, when they act in concert, have monopoly power” for the aftermarket distribution of first-run major motion pictures. Likewise, the company said, recording labels “when they act in concert, have monopoly power in the distribution of recorded music.”