Lee [Ohio State]: Supremes to hear Grokster Commentary
Lee [Ohio State]: Supremes to hear Grokster

Edward Lee, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University:

"The Supreme Court decided to hear the Grokster case, which involves the question whether p2p software distributors can be held secondarily liable for the infringing acts of some users of the software. This is a huge case in the recording industry's strategy to curb music file sharing. The 9th Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment that the p2p software distributors in Grokster had not violated the standards of secondary liability because the software had substantial noninfringing uses under the Sony doctrine. In the Sony case, the Supreme Court held that the distribution of technologies that are capable of substantial noninfringing uses, such as the video recorder, cannot be the basis for secondary liability — even though the technologies can also be used for infringing purposes.

Thus, just as copyright laws cannot bar the manufacture and distribution of the printing press, copy machine, or video recorder, the Grokster court ruled that it cannot bar the supply of p2p software, which has many lawful uses in allowing the sharing of public domain content, government content, and even copyrighted content authorized by their creators. For instance, the band Wilco used p2p to gain popularity among listeners, including an album that reached No. 8 on the Billboard charts.

I've been working on an essay analyzing these legal issues and will have more to share later. Stay tuned." [December 10, 2004; Lee Blog has the post]

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