The clock was ticking away at peer-to-peer software provider Kazaa last night. The music industry was waiting until midnight to see if Kazaa would begin implementing court-ordered filters to prevent file-sharing from being used for music piracy and threatening a possible shutdown if that didn’t happen.

A statement from the Australian music industry made it plain that the filters would put stoppers on all new users of Kazaa software worldwide – not just Australian users. “During the course of the copyright trial the Sharman parties stated that filtering mechanisms could not be made specific to Australian users. Under the orders the 3000 keyword filter will apply to all users from Tuesday,” said a statement from MIPI, the Music Industry Piracy Investigation company.

Yesterday evening, Kazaa’s owners, Sharman Networks, issued a statement that implied the keyword block would be implemented.

“Sharman Networks is complying with the federal court order and looking forward to the appeal in February,” the statement said.

Late last night Australians trying to download the file-sharing software were met with a statement: “Important Notice: Downloads of the Kazaa Media Desktop by users in Australia is not permitted.” There was no mention of the keyword filter system.

As a condition of operating until the appeal, the Federal Court had ordered Sharman to modify its software to include the “interim” 3000-word copyright filter – including the names of most popular artists and tracks – which is to be updated every two weeks.

Australian Record Industry Association CEO Stephen Peach yesterday said the keyword filter is the first move towards enforcing September’s copyright ruling, which found Sharman Networks liable for authorising copyright infringement on the Kazaa system. Peach frequently used the word “interim” to describe the filtering process.

The order also requires Sharman to present existing Kazaa users with dialogue boxes calling on them to upgrade to the filtered version of the software – though there seems no way that this can be enforced

Under the order, the 3000-word filter will apply from today – or Kazaa must close down, at least according to MIPI. Peach’s statement said: “Implementing the keyword filter is a condition of a stay on the copyright judgment which otherwise provides for the shutdown of Kazaa.”

This does not appear to be the understanding in the Sharman tent where spokespeople have been repeatedly claiming the judge has said he will not order a shutdown.

Said Stephen Peach: “It’s now time for Sharman to match their words with action. They have told the public they have been ‘working towards compliance of the court’ (sic). Now we will see how successful they have been. This simple stop-gap measure should mark the beginning of a process which will help protect the livelihoods of the thousands of artists whose work has been stolen and illegally traded on the Kazaa system.”

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