Kazaa was a peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing site similar to Napster that became popular in the early 2000s. It then became embroiled in legal battles in the mid-2000s and early 2010s, and finally shut down in 2012. An unauthorized hacked version of the original Kazaa software is still available on the internet under the names Kazaa Lite and Kazaa Resurrection, but only a small number of users are on them.
Is It Safe to Use Kazaa Lite or Other 'Hacked' Version?
From both a legal and a practical standpoint, the short answer is no, it is not advisable to use Kazaa Lite or other hacked versions of the original Kazaa software.
There are four clear reasons for this, and the third one is perhaps the most compelling.
1. The Kazaa Knockoff Versions Are Not Authorized by the Creators of Kazaa
The current unauthorized versions of Kazaa have some inherent legal risk. If the original creators of Kazaa wished to prosecute those who made the knockoff versions, it's possible any users of the illegal versions could also be caught up in the legal battles in some unpleasant way. Even if you are not responsible for making it, it's wise to avoid using illegal software.
Even the users of Kazaa Lite have expressed anxiety over whether they could get in trouble for using something that is clearly a copyright infringement.
2. There Is No Accountability for What Happens in Unauthorized Versions
When the Kazaa company officially disbanded, it also meant there was no longer any official legal entity responsible for the management of the official Kazaa software. There was no longer a team of professionals monitoring the code, nor was there someone responsible for making sure nothing nefarious was being injected into the software.
In other words, it's the Wild West.
When you download any unauthorized software, you don't know what you're getting. If a hacker has infected the code, you might be unknowingly installing viruses. You are also connecting yourself to a decentralized network of users who could be using the program for illegal purposes.
3. Kazaa Lite (And Other Kazaa Imitations) Users Are Still Lawsuit Targets for the Entertainment Industry
Admittedly, the first two reasons might come across as over-cautious. The original creators of Kazaa have yet to pursue any lawsuit against Kazaa Lite and despite the virus risks, these unauthorized versions do have active users. There are few active users (a few thousand), but there are people sharing files. The code is therefore at least functional and maybe virus-free.
However, the biggest reason to avoid these services is simple: the music industry is still targeting people for illegal file sharing.
Probably the most infamous case was the music industry's first lawsuit against a music fan that went to a jury trial. The lawsuit went through three trials and was against a Minnesota woman named Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who was found guilty of illegally sharing songs on Kazaa. She was sentenced to pay massive fines varying from $1.92 million to $222,000 in restitution.
Thomas-Rasset refused to pay the fine, and her lawyers argued that such a massive fine was unconstitutional. She has been forced to declare bankruptcy as a result.
As recently as June 2017, the entertainment industry is still pursuing aggressive action against illegal file sharing, and this time they are taking it a step farther and moving beyond lawsuits against individuals. Now they are suing ISPs or Internet Service Providers (i.e. Cox Cable) for permitting illegal file sharing.
Suing ISPs is an aggressive strategy, and it means it is still risky to use any P2P file sharing service where illegal file sharing might occur. Even if the industry stops targeting individuals, by targeting ISPs with lawsuits it means ISPs can shut off your internet service if they detect you engaging in illegal file sharing.
This is why most universities in the nation include a detailed warning against any form of file sharing by its students, as seen in these examples:
- University of Maryland's Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Warning
- Dartmouth's Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Warning
All of these warnings signs add up to a simple conclusion: avoid file sharing sites where illegal sharing can occur, especially sites that are unauthorized versions of software that no longer exists.
4. No Software Updates
This ties into the second point but because there is no longer an official Kazaa site run by a company, there have not been any software updates for years. For this reason, Kazaa Lite and other knockoffs have trouble running on new operating systems. Savvy programmers can create their own patches, but if you're not a programmer, you're likely stuck.
A Brief History of Kazaa's Troubles
The tale of Kazaa's demise begins in the early 2000s, not long after it was launched.
- 2001-2003: Kazaa, a program launched by programmers in Estonia in 2001, is bought by two entrepreneurs, Niklas Zennstrom of Sweden and Janus Friis of Denmark. By 2003, it becomes the most popular file sharing site on the internet. Its two owners sell it to Sharman Networks.
- December 2005: After 30 record labels bring a lawsuit against Sharman Networks in Australia, the company that launched Kazaa, Sharman shuts off all downloads for Australian users.
- 2006: As lawsuits build up against Kazaa, the site is sold and changed into a legitimate, legal subscription service.
- 2006-2011: The legal subscription version of Kazaa struggles, and it begins to encounter serious challenges when it removes itself from mobile app markets.
- 2012: The subscription service has ended, and Kazaa's official site is taken down though as of 2017, its company's LinkedIn profile still remains for unknown reasons.
The Tables Turn: Kazaa Transformed Into a Service That Hunts for Pirated Music
Kazaa's post-2012 fate is similar to plot of Catch Me if You Can, in which a con artist is turned to work for the FBI to catch other con artists. After Kazaa ended its music service, it began producing software for ISPs that aids them in identifying pirated files and blocking them, while also injecting advertisements into the mix to help the ISPs make money.
Where Are They Now?
The original entrepreneurs, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, who launched Kazaa into its peak period of popularity, are now known for a completely different technological invention. In 2003, around the same time as Kazaa's peak use, they launched Skype. It took a few years to grow, but their invention eventually caught on. In 2011, Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion.
Downloading and sharing copywritten material is illegal. LoveToKnow does not condone the use of P2P programs for illegal purposes. If you take the risk of using Kazaa Lite or other file sharing services, please use these programs responsibly and share only Free Music and other freely-distributable media. Learn more about Downloading Legal Music.