Grokster and Morpheus case reaches US Supreme Court

May 2005

Record Labels, Music Publishers, Artists, Internet

The US Supreme Court will be the final arbiter as to whether producers of file-sharing software can ultimately be held responsible for copyright infringement. The lawsuit, brought by MGM and 27 of the world’s largest entertainment firms, has raged for several years. If the Supreme Court finds in favour of the music and movie industry they would be able to sue file-trading firms into bankruptcy. But if the judge rules that Grokster and Morpheus – the file-sharers at the centre of the case – are merely providers of technology that can have legitimate as well as illegitimate uses, then the music and movie industry would be forced to abandon its pursuit of lawsuits against file-sharing providers (and probably internet service providers. Instead, they would have to pursue individuals who use peer-to-peer networks to get their hands on free music and movies. The hi-tech and entertainment industries have been divided on the issue. Intel filed a document with the Supreme Court earlier this month in defence of Grokster and others, despite misgivings about some aspects of the file-sharing community. It summed up the attitude of many tech firms in its submission which states that its products “are essentially tools, that like any other tools, capable of being used by consumers and businesses for unlawful purposes”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil rights watchdog, is also defending StreamCast Networks, the company behind the Morpheus file-sharing software saying that case raises a question of critical importance at the border between copyright and innovation. Key to the decision will be the Supreme Court’s view on the legitimacy of the landmark ruling in 1984 which found that Sony should not be held responsible for the fact that its Betamax video recorder could be used for piracy.


See Don’t Shoot The Messenger: Music Technology and Copyright Infringement in the Digital Age by Ben Challis :

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