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Justices In P2P Case Hesitant To Restrict Technology

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A legal battle pitting the peer-2-peer culture against the entertainment industry is becoming one of the most watched cases to reach the Supreme Court in a long time.

P2P Case
Supreme Court Hears P2P Case

The Supreme Court case, which apparently has the whole world watching, pits p2p clients Grokster and StreamCast’s Morpheus against MGM studios. The issue before the Justices is whether or not the makers of the p2p clients are liable for numerous copyright infringements committed by p2p users.

MGM, who seems to be representing the entire entertainment industry, believes the developers should be held responsible; a line of thinking that flies in the face of the Betamax ruling of 1984, which protected developers of technology that can be used to make copies (VCRs, photocopiers, the printing press) of original works.

Yesterday, both sides presented arguments to the Supreme Court Justices, detailing their positions and attacking their opponents. However, judging by the reaction of the Justices, convincing them to hold the p2p client developers responsible is not going to be an easy task.

The following is a sampling of the gray area the Supreme Court has to decide:

Supreme Court hears file-sharing case

According to NewKerala.com:

Liberal justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Breyer and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia voiced concerns over whether Verrelli’s majority test and interpretation of the Sony case would stifle innovation because inventors could be held liable for even creating a distribution system that might be used illegally.

“What I worry about are lawsuits right out of the box,” Scalia said.

Many creators of current devices that can be hosts for illegally copied material could also be held liable, Breyer said.

“Are you sure if you were the counselor of Sony you would recommend the use of the VCR? Or how about Apple with the iPod?” Breyer asked, “Would you stop Gutenberg?” Artists are less likely to want to create if people are going to steal their copyrighted material though, Verrilli argued.

US court set to rule on copyright

Garry Barker, technology editor of TheAge.com.au reveals:

The judges are seen to be caught between technological progress and the millions of people who, every minute, by downloading material from the internet, break laws prohibiting unauthorised copying of music, TV programs and movies.

In effect the US Supreme Court is being asked to turn back a technological tsunami. Its decision will determine the fate and future business models of Hollywood, the big record labels, even local cinemas and record shops.

It will touch those who carry digital music players such as Apple’s iPod and the millions more who record TV programs and copy movies from DVDs they borrow or buy.

Justices wary of barring tools for file-sharing

Jim Puzzanghera of MercuryNews.com believes the justices will have a hard time limiting technology in order to appease the entertainment industry:

Four of the nine justices expressed specific concerns during oral arguments Tuesday that such lawsuits could stifle technological innovation. Technology industry lawyers have made the same arguments and were encouraged by the court’s reaction.

Justice Stephen Breyer cited the printing press, the Xerox copying machine and the videocassette recorder as once-controversial technologies whose later revolutionary impacts might never have been realized if inventors had faced lawsuits over possible illegal uses. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and David Souter worried about a chilling effect on innovators if the court allowed companies like Grokster to be sued for how others used their inventions.

“Why isn’t it a foregone conclusion . . . the iPod developer is going to lose his shirt?” Souter asked the attorney representing the entertainment industry, Donald Verrilli Jr.

The justices are not expected to decide the fate of the p2p developers until this summer. When looking at the information and realizing the position they are in, not to mention the ramifications from any decision concerning this case, it’s easy to understand why the Supreme Court is moving cautiously.

Update: It was brought to my attention, via an email from “Nick,” that Sony owns MGM Studios. Wholly. The significance of this is Sony was the beneficiary of the Betamax ruling, which has been brought up relentlessly since the trial began. It seems like Sony is now playing both sides of the fence and is creating quite the conflict of interest. One has to wonder if the Supreme Court is going to call MGM’s lawyers on this contradiction.

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

Justices In P2P Case Hesitant To Restrict Technology
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