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Friday, November 21, 2003
Kazaa launches legitimacy campaign

The world's largest Internet music-trading service launched a $1 million advertising campaign Tuesday designed to rally the public to pressure lawmakers and the entertainment industry to embrace digital file sharing as a legitimate distribution tool.

The campaign is the latest push by the Kazaa file-sharing service and its parent company, Sharman Networks, to counter a multi-million-dollar legal and lobbying effort launched by music, software and movie firms convinced that peer-to-peer (P2P) services are a major source of online piracy.

The ads invite readers and Kazaa's estimated 60 million users to "join the revolution" by proclaiming their love of Kazaa to "politicians, journalists, record labels, movie companies and friends." They also exhort the entertainment industry to embrace the "revolution" or get left behind as technology passes them by.

Sharman Networks's Nikki Hemming said that the campaign will feature three ads scheduled to run in several widely read newspapers and magazines including Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Sydney Morning Herald and London's Guardian.

The campaign follows Sharman Networks's backing earlier this year of the Distributed Computing Industry Association, a group formed to lobby Congress on the merits of file sharing. It also is the latest step by Kazaa to cast itself as the way that the music industry should sell its products online.

Entertainment industry officials were unimpressed with Hemmings's attempts to redefine Kazaa.

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) spokesman Rich Taylor dismissed the campaign outright. "Kazaa is a service that is preying on copyrighted works, and no amount of advertising can change what you see when you go online there," he said. The MPAA estimates that file sharing has cost the film industry more than $1 billion in the last year.

Until the file-sharing companies filter copyrighted works, there won't be much ground for discussion, said Recording Industry Association of America spokesman Jonathan Lamy.

Gigi Sohn, president of Washington, D.C.-based civil liberties group Public Knowledge, said it will be hard to rally millions of people to support something that they know in their hearts is illegal.

But Hollywood and the recording industry deserve their share of the blame for the ongoing problem, she said, because they seem unwilling to understand why millions of people use file sharing as their only way to get music, legally or otherwise.

Sharman Networks is the primary backer of the Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) which starting in July tried to break that stalemate. The group has gotten the ear of several prominent file-sharing critics, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), but there are no signs that it has been able to change entrenched industry perceptions.

If anything, the DCIA has caused trouble for Kazaa because it is butting heads with P2P United, a rival lobbying group formed by several of Kazaa's competitors, including Grokster, Morpheus and BearShare.

These other networks have responded bitterly to Sharman Networks's decision to pursue its goals without them, especially because Kazaa with its 60 million users brings more clout to the debate.

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