WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) -
The head of acontroversial Internet file-sharing network said Tuesday that thecompany would not hijack users' computers for its own purposeswithout their explicit permission.
Consumers would have full control over their computers whenusing the Kazaa network to download music, movies or other filesfrom the Internet, said Nikki Hemming, chief executive of parentcompany Sharman Networks.
The Australian company came under widespread criticism lastmonth when Kazaa users discovered that they had unknowinglydownloaded a program that could use their extra bandwidth andcomputing power to perform tasks for other companies.
But the program has not been activated, Hemming said, and wouldnot be until Sharman engineers had confirmed that it poses no harmto the network's users. After that, it will not be activated unlessconsumers specifically give it permission.
"It will be presented to consumers, and they will have a choicewhether they want to interact with it or not," Hemming said on aconference call with reporters.
Consumers who do allow the program to run would receive somesort of compensation, Hemming said, though she did not know whatform that compensation would take.
Hemming's remarks come as the privately held company and rivalslike StreamCast Networks' Morpheus are beefing up advertising andother capabilities in a bid to turn traffic into profits. Sharmansays its Kazaa software has been downloaded 65 million times.
Kazaa, Morpheus and other peer to peer networks have attractedmillions of users over the past year, drawn by the ability to tradeall manner of music, movies and computers files for free.
The companies face lawsuits from media firms who say that onlinepiracy has hurt CD sales and could cut into movie sales aswell.
Media giants like Walt Disney Co . andthe five major recording companies have thrown their weight behinda Senate bill that would prevent computers and other digital-mediadevices from playing unauthorized copies.
Sharman is pushing a different approach on Capitol Hill, Hemmingsaid: get Internet providers, advertising firms, computer makersand others who benefit from peer-to-peer use to chip in to a fundthat would pay copyright holders for the use of their material.
The company has hired a Washington lobbyist and has pitched theidea to musicians' groups, Internet providers and computer makers,she said. So far, it has avoided talking to recordingcompanies.
"Ultimately, it's the content creators who deserve the reward,"she said.