Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme Court Rules Against File-Swapping Firms

The Supreme Court has handed movie studios and record labels a victory against file-swapping, ruling that peer-to-peer companies could be held responsible for the copyright piracy on their networks.

In their ruling on Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. et al. V. Grokster, LTD., et al. Justice David Souter, who wrote in the majority opinion, stated "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement."

The problem with this ruling involves how to properly hold a company responsible for what users choose to do with its products. Should gun makers be held responsible for crimes committed with their firearms? Should lockpick makers be responsible for those who use their tools in break-ins? Should VCR and DVD manufacturers be responsible for illegal copying of copyrighted content?

The key word in the ruling and the one that will be intersting to see how it will be defined is "promoting." It would seem that software developers would be able to get around this ruling by creating marketing compaigns around the "rights" of copyright holders.

One fear is that this ruling also has the potential to rewrite the Supreme Court's 1984 Sony Betamax ruling that made VCRs legal to sell. The impact on other technologies such as DVD recorders and personal video recorders (aka "TIVO") is troubling. Sphere: Related Content

No comments: