The US Supreme Court'sunanimous 9-0 decision yesterday to hold file-sharing software accountable forcopyright infringements committed by users of the services was greeted withjubilation by Hollywood yesterday.
The case of MGM vs Groksterin which 28 of the world's largest entertainmen companies brought a lawsuitagainst the makers of the Morpheus, Grokster and KaZaA software products wasalways bound to have huge implications for the music and movie businesses. Itbasically asked whether Groksterand other technology innovators should be held responsible for the actions ofthe people who use their software'
Rights-holders have alwaysargued that Grokster should be held liable for protecting copyrights, othersincluding technology advocates and libertarians have argued that manufacturersshould not have the burden of how their product will be used
The Motion PictureAssociation Of America (MPAA) was first in a flurry of statements releasedyesterday. "Today's ruling is an historic victory for intellectual property inthe digital age and is good news for consumers, artists, innovation and lawfulInternet businesses," said MPAA president and CEO Dan Glickman. "The decisionwill be of utmost importance as we continue developing innovative and legitimateways to marry content and technology so consumers can access entertainment on avariety of devices."
House Democratic Whip StenyHoyer and Representative Mary Bono who are co-founded of the CongressionalRecording Arts And Sciences Caucus came in second. "Over 90% of the use ofGrokster software is for infringement purposes," they said in the statement."Therefore, this decision prevents the legitimization of peer-to-peer filesharing software programs such as Grokster that encourage and facilitate theillegal sharing of copyrighted works."
The industry's original suit had been dismissed by lowercourts, who defended the peer-to-peer services on the basis of the 1984 SupremeCourt ruling on Sony-Betamax videorecorders which said that the manufacturerswere not liable for infringement carried out by users of the recorder becausethe primary use of of the machine was "non-commercial time-shifting in thehome."
The MPAA arguesthat the Sony-Betamax court had stressed that in deciding matters of secondary liability,courts must strike a balance between a copyright holder's demand for effectiveprotection of their intellectual property and the rights of others to engage inunrelated areas of commerce.
This new SupremeCourt ruling essentially renders the Sony-Betamax decision moot under newdigital circumstances.