A Dutch company, hoping to capitalise on a year-old Dutch court ruling that legitimised file-swapping services in the Netherlands, plans to offer software and a home base to file-sharing service providers.

Launched Friday, The Honest Thief is a project of Plass Global Resources in the Netherlands. The company plans to offer software based on the Gnutella P2P (peer-to-peer) protocol as well as legal advice on how to set up a Dutch business to anybody wanting to start a file-sharing service, said company spokesman Steven Phenix.

The software is being tested and should be out in the next few weeks.

PGR has one US-based company looking to establish a file-swapping unit in the Netherlands and use the P2P software, according to Phenix. He declined to name the company because the deal is not yet final.

PGR has been in operation for about nine years developing software for customers of Centraal Bureau Bouwtoezicht BV, a Dutch construction management company headed by Pieter Plass, who is also behind The Honest Thief. Not coincidentally, The Honest Thief is also the title of a management book Plass wrote a few years ago.

"Call it file sharing or shoplifting, here in Holland we call it good business," Plass said in a statement

File-sharing applications such as Kazaa and Morpheus allow users to swap files for free. The entertainment industry has been fighting the providers of such applications in court because file-sharing is used to swap copyright-protected songs and movies, which the industry compares to stealing.

Napster and Aimster were successfully shut down, but the recording industry suffered a setback in March last year when the Amsterdam Appeals Court said Kazaa BV can't be held liable for the copyright-infringing actions of users of the Kazaa file-sharing application. The decision is being appealed at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, which is expected to rule in October.

The Honest Thief is an "interesting initiative," said Kazaa lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm. "The Netherlands is the only country that has a court ruling that allows P2P. But the situation can change when the Supreme Court rules later this year."

The Ifpi (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), which represents the recording industry worldwide, intends to continue fighting in court.

"We don't believe that the Netherlands is a haven for unauthorised P2P services and we have every intention of proving it in the courts. It is hard to see how someone can claim they are making 'some honest money' by stealing other people's works," Jay Berman, IFPI chairman and chief executive officer said, citing The Honest Thief website.