Kazaa is the old stalwart for file sharing – it has the best-known name, although it’s been under such relentless attack from the recording industry that savvy kids are switching over to eDonkey and Shareaza and even more obscure options.

The bad news for Kazaa is that a trial begins today in Australia over the responsibility that Kazaa’s parent company has for copyright infringement by its users. The case is coming to trial before any of the similar actions in the United States – and potentially could have some precedential value here. Australian authorities allowed the movie and recording industries to do surprise raids to gather evidence on company offices and its executives’ homes, as well as universities and ISP offices. The results from those raids have yet to be revealed. Here’s an article about the Australian lawsuit.

The good news is that Kazaa’s new release of its software includes access to Skype, a service for placing phone calls over the Internet. (Your hot new acronym: VOIP, for “Voice Over IP” – hitting the mainstream right before your eyes.)

The bad news is that Kazaa is a mess. Stay away from it. The recording industry has many, many computers connected to the Kazaa network serving up files that appear to be popular songs but in fact contain static or short clips of the song repeated over and over. And it continues to be true that Kazaa includes an embarrassing amount of adware and spyware and crap to pollute your computer. Although there are “Kazaa Lite” variations out there occasionally, a better answer is to use a different program for music downloads.

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