A Dutch supreme court today reaffirmed that it is lawful to make the file sharing software Kazaa openly available. It is the first time that a Supreme Court or other national high court is ruling on the legitimacy of P2P technologies such as Kazaa.
The outcome of the case, brought in a counter-suit by Dutch music rights society Buma/Stemra, has been closely watched by the entertainment industry, technology businesses and consumer advocates.
"This victory sets the precedent about the legality of peer-to-peer technology across the European Union, and around the world," Kazaa attorney Christiaan Alberdinck Thijm said in a statement. Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the founders of Kazaa, call the ruling a "remarkable victory for the Internet and consumers".
Buma Stemra is going to issue a statement later today.
The decision of the Supreme Court confirms a March 2002 ruling of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. In 2002 a Dutch district court ordered Kazaa to prevent people using its product from engaging in copyright infringement or face thousands of dollars in damages. That suit was brought by Dutch Buma/Stemra, which interestingly enough had just started licensing negotiations with the peer to peer service.
The Amsterdam Appeals Court then overturned that decision, and agued that Kazaa couldn't be held liable for the copyright-infringing actions of its users, a ruling that sent shockwaves through the music industry. However, for Kazaa the verdict came a little too late, as the company had sold most of its assets to Australian firm Sharman Networks.
The Dutch Supreme Court today did not rule on the issue of whether individual file-sharers violate the copyrights of the music industry. In the US, the music industry has filed suit against hundreds of individuals. The Dutch Association of Phonogram and Videogram Producers (NVPI) says that the verdict is by no means a victory for Kazaa users, who can still be procecuted. ®