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Grokster Case Goes To The Supreme Court

Chris Richardson
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-03-29

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The peer-2-peer file sharing community is having its day in court. Starting today, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments from developers of the P2P clients Grokster and StreamCast Networks' Morpheus.

The court is also heard arguments from MGM Studios who seems to be representing the entertainment industry's point of view.

The chief concern of the Supreme Court Justices was protecting existing copyright laws and protected materials, while not restricting further technological advances. The high court received the case after entertainment industry representatives petitioned a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals ruled that developers of P2P clients are not liable for the how the clients are used, a decision strikingly similar to the Betamax decision of 1984. According to MarketWatch.com

The entertainment industry contends that the firms have developed business models centered on facilitating the illegal sharing of copyrighted material. The tech industry contends that Hollywood is exaggerating the extent of illegal sharing, and is seeking the authority to quash technological innovation.

Grokster and other file-sharing services "deliberately set out to capture a clientele of known [copyright] infringers," Donald B. Verrilli Jr., an attorney for the Metro Goldwyn Mayer film studio, told the justices.

The entertainment industry is appealing a federal judge's 2003 decision, which found that the defendants couldn't be held liable for the actions of end-users who use the file-sharing services to trade illegal copies.

An article in Wired.com also contained insight into the Justices' thinking by offering:

Justice Stephen Breyer said that devices like the Xerox copy machine, VCR and iPod could have a "vast number of infringing uses," leading him to wonder how inventors could develop new products without being sued. Justice Antonin Scalia asked how much time would one give an inventor to increase the number of lawful uses.

How do you "give inventor the confidence" to make a new product, Justice David Souter said, when the item could be used for infringement? The iPod can be stocked with music from legitimate CDs or from other means, like illegal content from P2P.
Verrilli said the law would have to look at the business models of the company.

A judgment is not expected from the Supreme Court until the summer.

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About the Author:
Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

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