Major International rights owners urge the US Supreme Court to reverse the Grokster decision

March 2005

Record Labels, Internet, Music Publishers, Film & Television

Eight major international trade associations, representing hundreds of thousands of copyright and other rights owners in more than 100 countries outside the United States of America filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief yesterday, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the court of appeals’ decision in the Grokster file-sharing case. These organisations argue that the lower court’s decision not only affects U.S. rights owners, but also denies international rights owners effective protection in the U.S. against copyright infringement on a ‘massive and unprecedented scale’. The lower courts in MGM, Inc. vs Grokster, Ltd. found that two distributors of peer-to-peer software could not be held liable for users’ copyright infringements. The IFPI argue that this puts the United States in breach of its obligations under international treaties which require enforcement measures that are effective in deterring and preventing piracy. The IFPI argues that unless reversed, the court of appeals decision sets bad precedent not only in the U.S. but elsewhere, and risks making the U.S. a piracy haven from which infringing copies of protected material spill over the border via the internet to hurt rights owners in other countries. The international trade associations filing this ‘friend of the court’ brief represent record companies IFPI), producers and distributors; music and literary publishers (including CISAC); composers and authors of a variety of protected works; rights societies; film producers; performers; and video publishers (International Video Federation). The Supreme Court will hear the appeal by the U.S. plaintiff record companies, film studios and music publishers who brought the case later this spring.



COMMENT : from :
The Supreme Court hearing is expected to focus on the meaning of its 21-year-old decision on Sony’s Betamax video recorder. In the early 1980s, the device was said to infringe the copyrights of TV and movie studios; but Sony won the case because the machine also had significant non-infringing uses. According to the Washington Post, Acting Solicitor General Paul D Clement has asked the Court to overturn the Betamax ruling. Clement argues that “the overwhelming use of respondents’ networks is infringing, and it appears likely that most if not all of respondents’ revenues are derived from that infringement”. In a separate brief the Information Technology Association of America, NetCoalition, Digital Media Association, and the Center for Democracy and Technology ask the Supreme Court to uphold the ruling. Application of Sony Betamax test, says the coalition of tech groups, has promoted the explosion of technological innovation since the mid-1980’s – everything from the personal computer to digital music players and the rise of the internet itself. But the test does not immunise a vendor’s other conduct, say the groups. It does not allow vendors to actively encourage users to violate copyright laws. The tech groups’ brief also asks the Court to clarify that the Sony Betamax test does not require an examination of whether a technology could have been redesigned to reduce infringing uses; and there’s no need to weigh the cost of doing so against the benefits of reduced infringement, they say.

(the website of the international law firm of Pinsent Masons)

No Comments

Comments are closed.