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Love Letters To Congress

NMC/Radio and Records eChart main column as published in the 3/8/02 issue of R&R It's not every day that Senator Joseph Biden gets a love letter, let alone one via overseas air mail from Australia. But just last week, it happened, and it was sealed with a kiss.

Previously: Doing the Math >>
Next: Premature Eradication >>

Sharman Networks, the new operating entity for KaZaa, one of the post-Napster music piracy sites, has asked Congress for some relief. KaZaa was ordered shut down by a Netherlands judge for consistently allowing copyright violation. KaZaa then sold off their assets to a company in Australia, still offshore of the United States, but beyond the grasp of the judge's order.

There is some question as to whether or not Sharman Networks is nothing but a shell company for KaZaa's Scandinavian owners; there is little available in the way of public information on the company, and there is no business license on file in New South Wales, where Sharman claims to be based.

In the letter to Biden, Sharman slams the RIAA for playing "whack-a-mole" with their lawsuits that seek to shut down networks like theirs: "We suggest that it is time for Congress to step in and halt the litigation excesses of the music and movie industries through new legislative initiatives that compel content availability."

Some might view those last three words as a request for guaranteeing the right to steal whatever they and their users want. But the company completely avoids the piracy issue in their letter, instead complaining that no one is giving it credit for the other uses the software could be put to, including independent music promotion. Any of you PDs or MDs have the time or inclination to start surfing for untested music by bands that you've never heard?

The other uses Sharman says KaZaa is meant to be used include sharing Word and Excel documents, personal backup of data and more. Although the service could somehow be pressed into doing those tasks, would anyone want to? Backing up to a service that anyone can grab data from? I don't think so. And Office has very nice collaboration technology built in without any server in between.

And if all this handwaving isn't enough, Sharman also arrogantly claims that in the few months that MusicNet and pressplay have been available, they have done a horrible job of replacing Napster's legacy.

Thankfully, that's not MusicNet and pressplay's mission.

Here's hoping that Senator Biden and the rest of the Foreign Relations Committee send the flowers and candy back to Sydney. They will most likely stick to their guns and their take of February 12, where they labeled KaZaa a piracy site. We'll be giving KaZaa the Net Unknown test in the upcoming weeks, and even with this advance notice, we're pretty sure we'll find that Napster's legacy lives down under.

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