Vast Active Library and Information Science blog. From a recent library science graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. A focus on reference and current awareness tools and issues, especially free, web-based resources.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005
File sharing: Supreme Court Rules Against Grokster  
The US Supreme Court has ruled against Grokster (PC World) in Grokster v MGM. The plaintiffs were arguing that makers of file-sharing software products, such as Grokster, were liable for copyright violations committed by users of the software. The Court argued that Grokster (and StreamCast) were aware that users were primarily using their products to commit copyright infringement, and that both companies actively encouraged this.

Grokster backers argue that this will make technological innovation harder, as software creators will have to be mindful of any possible illegal uses that could be made of their products.

In Popular Science Cory Doctorow points out that the Court didn't state what actions legally constitute an 'affirmative step', and therefore make a company guilty of inducing infringement. He adds:

"This decision won’t kill P2P sharing. Engineering students write P2P software in 11 lines of code as class assignments....But what today’s decision will kill is American innovation. Chinese and European firms can get funding and ship products based on plans that don’t have to comply with this decision’s fuzzy test, while their American counterparts will need to convince everyone from their bankers to the courts that they’ve taken all measures to avoid inducing infringement. "

Xeni Jardin has more links on the Grokster decision (BoingBoing). Ernest Miller has notes on the decision, and argues that BitTorrent might be next.

The former head of the Recording Industry Association of America, Hillary Rosen, notes the futility of fighting the battle, even though the RIAA won. So obvious I feel ashamed for saying it, but the internet's a global institution, after all. This decision doesn't stop someone in New Zealand creating a file-sharing application - and the Supreme Court won't be able to do anything about that. Or China. Or Nigeria. Or wherever really.