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Kazaa Media Desktop
File:H logo.png
Developer(s) Sharman Networks
Stable release 3.2.7 / 2006-11-26
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Type Peer-to-peer
License Proprietary
Website www.kazaa.com

Kazaa Media Desktop (once capitalized as "KaZaA", but now usually written "Kazaa") started as a peer-to-peer file sharing application using the FastTrack protocol licensed by Joltid Ltd. and operated as Kazaa by Sharman Networks. Kazaa is now run under license as music subscription service by Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Inc.

Kazaa Media Desktop was commonly used to exchange MP3 music files and other file types, such as videos, applications, and documents over the internet. The Kazaa Media Desktop client could be downloaded free of charge; however, it was bundled with adware and for a period there were "No spyware" warnings found on Kazaa's website. During the past few years, Sharman Networks and its business partners and associates were the target of copyright-related lawsuits, related to the copyright of content distributed via Kazaa Media Desktop on the FastTrack protocol.



Kazaa and FastTrack were created by the swedish Niklas Zennström, and the danish Janus Friis, and Blue Moon[1] in Estonia (all of whom were later to create Skype and later still Joost). Kazaa was first introduced by the Dutch company Consumer Empowerment in March 2001, near the end of the first generation of P2P networks typified by the shutdown of Napster in July 2001.

Initially, some users of Kazaa were users of the Morpheus program, formerly an application made available by MusicCity, but once the official Kazaa client became more widespread, its developers used their ability to automatically update it, changing the protocol, in February 2002, to shut out Morpheus clients when its developers failed to pay license fees. Morpheus later became a client of the Gnutella network.

Consumer Empowerment was sued in the Netherlands in 2001 by the Dutch music publishing body, Buma/Stemra. The court ordered Kazaa's owners to take steps to prevent its users from violating copyrights or else pay a heavy fine. In October 2001 a lawsuit was filed against Consumer Empowerment by members of the music and motion picture industry in the USA. In response Consumer Empowerment sold the Kazaa application to Sharman Networks, headquartered in Australia and incorporated in Vanuatu. In late March 2002, a Dutch court of appeal reversed an earlier judgment and stated that Kazaa was not responsible for the actions of its users. Buma/Stemra lost its appeal before the Dutch Supreme Court in December 2003.

In 2003, Kazaa signed a deal with Altnet and Streamwaves to try to convert users to paying, legal customers. Searchers on Kazaa were offered a free 30 second sample of songs for which they were searching for and directing them to signup for the full featured Streamwaves service.[2]

However, Kazaa's new owner, Sharman, was sued in Los Angeles by the major record labels and motion pictures studios and a class of music publishers. The other defendants in that case (Grokster and MusicCity, makers of the Morpheus file-sharing software) initially prevailed against the plaintiffs on summary judgment (Sharman joined the case too late to take advantage of that ruling). The summary judgment ruling was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but was unanimously reversed by the US Supreme Court in a decision titled MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd..[3][4]

Following that ruling in favor of the plaintiff labels and studios, Grokster almost immediately settled the case. Shortly thereafter, on 27 July 2006, it was announced that Sharman had also settled with the record industry and motion picture studios. As part of that settlement, the company agreed to pay $100 million in damages to the four major music companies—Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music—and an undisclosed amount to the studios. Sharman also agreed to convert Kazaa into a legal music download service.[5] Like the creators of similar products, Kazaa's owners have been taken to court by music publishing bodies to restrict its use in the sharing of copyrighted material.

While the U.S. action was still pending, the record industry commenced proceedings against Sharman on its home turf. In February 2004, the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) announced its own legal action against Kazaa, alleging massive copyright breaches. The trial began on 29 November 2004. On 6 February 2005, the homes of two Sharman Networks executives and the offices of Sharman Networks in Australia were raided under a court order by ARIA to gather evidence for the trial.

On 5 September 2005, the Federal Court of Australia issued a landmark ruling that Sharman, though not itself guilty of copyright infringement, had "authorized" Kazaa users illegally to swap copyrighted songs. The court ruled six defendants—including Kazaa's owners Sharman Networks, Sharman's Sydney-based boss Nikki Hemming and associate Kevin Bermeister—had knowingly allowed Kazaa users illegally to swap copyrighted songs. The company was ordered to modify the software within two months (a ruling enforceable only in Australia). Sharman and the other five parties faced paying millions of dollars in damages to the record labels that instigated the legal action.[6]

On 5 December 2005, the Federal Court of Australia ceased downloads of Kazaa in Australia after Sharman Networks failed to modify their software by the December 5th deadline. Users with an Australian IP address were greeted with the message "Important Notice: The download of the Kazaa Media Desktop by users in Australia is not permitted" when visiting the Kazaa website. Sharman planned to appeal the Australian decision, but ultimately settled the case as part of its global settlement with the record labels and studios in the United States.[7]

In yet another set of related cases, in September 2003, the RIAA (trade association of the music industry) filed suit in civil court against several private individuals who had shared large numbers of files with Kazaa; most of these suits were settled with monetary payments averaging $3,000. Sharman Networks responded with a lawsuit against the RIAA, alleging that the terms of use of the network were violated and that unauthorized client software (such as Kazaa Lite, see below) was used in the investigation to track down the individual file sharers. An effort to throw out this suit was denied in January 2004. However, that suit was also settled in 2006 (see above). Most recently, in Duluth, Minnesota, the recording industry sued Jammie Thomas, a 30 year old single mother. On October 5, 2007, Thomas was ordered to pay the six record companies (Sony BMG,Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records Inc. and Warner Bros. Records Inc.) $9,250 for each of the 24 songs they had focused on in this case. She was accused of sharing a total of 1,702 songs through her Kazaa account. Along with attorney fees, Thomas may be responsible for owing as much as a half a million dollars. Thomas testified that she does not have a Kazaa account, but her testimony was complicated by the fact that she had replaced her computer's hard drive after the alleged downloading took place, and later than she originally said in a deposition before the trial.[8]

Bundled malware

The early Kazaa Media Desktop had been suspected of installing malware onto users' computers. Sharman, Kazaa's home company, claimed that the products were not adware and did not collect personal user information. At one time, the part of the Kazaa code which was considered adware was an optional part of the Kazaa program. Since the allegations surfaced, the code was bundled into the main Kazaa software, and it was not possible to uninstall it. Also, spyware detection and removal software frequently failed to delete the code without special actions taken by the PC user. Spyware components detected and deleted by removal programs often rendered Kazaa unusable and required reinstallation of the program. This forced the user to allow these programs on their computer to keep KMD working.

Malware installed by Kazaa included the following:[9]

  • Cydoor (spyware): Collects information on the PC's surfing habits and passes it on to the company which created Cydoor.
  • B3D (adware): An add-on which causes advertising popups if the PC accesses a website which triggers the B3D code.
  • Altnet (adware): A distribution network for paid "gold" files.
  • The Best Offers (adware): Tracks your browsing habits and internet usage to display advertisements similar to your interests.
  • InstaFinder (hijacker): Redirects your URL typing errors to InstaFinder's web page instead of the standard search page.
  • TopSearch (adware): Displays paid songs and media related to your search in Kazaa.
  • RX Toolbar (spyware): The toolbar monitors all the sites you visit with Microsoft Internet Explorer and provides links to competitors' websites.
  • New.net (hijacker): A browser plugin that lets you access several of its own unofficial Top Level Domain names, e.g., .chat and .shop. The main purpose of which is to sell domain names such as www.record.shop which is actually www.record.shop.new.net.

As a result of these additional components, CNET's Download.com site stopped the distribution of KMD in April 2004.

The KMD was also known not to uninstall completely, leaving behind several executables, files, and the KMD installer. It also left behind all the malware initially installed. In an effort to remove the files left behind, Merijn Bellekom (the creator of HijackThis) created KazaaBeGone, attempting to remove any remnants left behind by KMD's uninstaller program.

Current state

Kazaa's legal issues ended after a settlement of $100 million in reparations to the recording industry.[5] Kazaa, including the domain name, was then sold off to Brilliant Digital Entertainment, Inc. Kazaa now operates as a monthly music subscription service allowing users to download unlimited songs.

Some users still use the old network on the unauthorized versions of Kazaa, either Kazaa Lite or Kazaa Resurrection, which is still a self-sustaining network where thousands of users still share unrestricted content. This fact was previously stated by Kazaa when they claimed their FastTrack network was not centralized (like the old Napster), but instead a link between millions of computers around the world.

However, in the wake of the bad publicity and lawsuits, the number of users on Kazaa Lite has dropped dramatically. They have gone from several millions users at a given time to mere thousands.

Without further recourse, and until the lawsuit was settled, the RIAA actively sued thousands of people across the USA for sharing copyrighted music across the network. College campus networks were also a focus of the RIAA's many lawsuits. Many of these cases are still in the process of being settled or are headed for trial. Although the lawsuits were mainly in the United States, other countries also began to follow suit.


This section is limited to those programs which are based on the official Kazaa Media Desktop client. For other FastTrack-compatible clients, see FastTrack.

Kazaa Lite was an unauthorized modification of the Kazaa Media Desktop application which excluded adware and spyware and provided slightly extended functionality. It became available in April 2002. It was available free of charge, and as of mid-2005 was almost as widely used as the official Kazaa client itself. It connected to the same FastTrack network and thus allowed to exchange files with all Kazaa users, and was created by third party programmers by modifying the binary of the original Kazaa application. Later versions of Kazaa Lite included K++, a memory patcher that removed search limit restrictions, and set one's "participation level" to the maximum of 1000. Sharman Networks considers Kazaa Lite to be a copyright violation.

After development of Kazaa Lite stopped, K-Lite v2.6, Kazaa Lite Resurrection and Kazaa Lite Tools appeared. Unlike Kazaa Lite, which is a modification of an old version of Kazaa, K-Lite v2.6 requires the original KMD 2.6 executable to run. K-Lite doesn't include any code by Sharman: it requires the user to supply the original, unpatched Kazaa Media Desktop, which is executed in an environment which removes the malware, spyware and adware and adds features.

In November 2004, the developers of K-Lite released K-Lite v2.7, which similarly requires the KMD 2.7 executable. Currently, other clean variants use an older core (2.02) and thus, K-Lite had some features that others didn't have. K-Lite included multiple search tabs, a custom toolbar, and autostart, a download accelerator, an optional splash screen, preview with option (to view files you are currently downloading), an IP blocker, Magnet links support, and ad blocking, although the clients based on the 2.02 core abstract these functions to third-party programs.

Kazaa Lite Tools was an update of the original Kazaa Lite, with modifications to the third-party programs included, it is newer and includes more tools.

Kazaa Lite Resurrection (KLR) appeared almost immediately after Kazaa Lite development was stopped in August 2003. KLR was a copy of Kazaa Lite 2.3.3.

See also


External links

da:Kazaa de:KaZaA et:Kazaa es:Kazaa fr:KaZaA it:KaZaA Media Desktop he:קאזה nl:Kazaa no:Kazaa pl:Kazaa pt:Kazaa ru:Kazaa fi:Kazaa sv:Kazaa

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