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Music Biz Fires More Rounds In Copyright Battle

The music industry took two separate actions to restrict music-file sharing last week.

The first step has the music industry teamed up with the movie industry in a U.S. District Court to shut down file-sharing services that use the Morpheus, Grokster and KaZaA Media Desktop software applications.

In the second action, Vivendi Universal said its Universal Music Group planned a fourth-quarter international launch of copy-protected commercial CDs that can’t be digitally copied. The company declined to identify the anticopy technology that it will use and whether it will prevent digital copying by audio CD-recorders, not just by PCs. Universal is the world’s largest music company.

In the federal lawsuit, movie and music companies contend that the file-sharing services are just as guilty as Napster in violating copyright laws even though they don’t operate central servers that search the hard drives of online PC users for files to share. Instead, the services’ software turns PC users’ hard drives into search engines for other PC users.

Despite the difference, the lawsuit stated, “Defendants provide Internet users with a fully integrated infrastructure that connects them to millions of infringing digital files.” In addition, “Defendants have sought to turn their growing user base into profit through advertising [inserted by their servers onto users’ PCs] and investment dollars. In short, defendants are building a business based on the daily massive infringement that they enable and encourage.”

The lawsuit also contends that central servers operated by the three file-sharing services actively maintain the peer-to-peer network. Users, for example, must log onto the central servers before searching for files on other users’ hard drives. Also, all files are encrypted so that shared files can’t be accessed without software provided by the three services: MusicCity (Morpheus), Grokster and Consumer Empowerment (KaZaA).

Analysts nonetheless said it’s not clear whether shutting the services down will prevent current users from continuing to trade files.