Sharman Networks, the company behind the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing software, began its defence in a Sydney court room yesterday.

It is defending iself against charges by members of the music industry that the company aided music piracy and copyright infringement.

Anthony Meagher, a lawyer representing Sharman Networks, said the key issue is whether the company authourizes breaches of copyright by users of its software, according to a summary of the arguments issued by its public relations agency.

Meagher cited two previous cases - one in the House of Lords in the UK against Amstrad concerning double-deck tape recorders and one in the US Supreme Court against Sony concerning video cassette recorders - that found manufacturers do not authourize breaches of copyright by users. Sharman Networks is in the same situation, he said.

Moreover, no more than two per cent of Kazaa users are located in Australia with the vast majority of them in the US, where the distribution of Kazaa software is legal, according to the summary. The defence team aims to prove the testimony of experts that the owners and distributors of Kazaa have no control over users of the Kazaa software or their activity, it said.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks.