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Archived updates for Thursday, August 19, 2004

Grokster and Morpheus Affirmed by the Ninth Circuit

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed that Grokster and Morpheus P2P, distributors of peer-to-peer file-sharing computer networking software, may
not be held contributorily or vicariously liable for copyright infringements by users. According to the opinion,
As to the question at hand, the district court's grant of partial summary judgment to the Software Distributors is clearly dictated by applicable precedent. The Copyright Owners urge a re-examination of the law in the light of what they believe to be proper public policy, expanding exponentially the reach of the doctrines of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. Not only would such a renovation conflict with binding precedent, it would be unwise. Doubtless, taking that step would satisfy the Copyright Owners' immediate economic aims. However, it would also alter general copyright law in profound ways with unknown ultimate consequences outside the present context.

Further, as we have observed, we live in a quicksilver technological environment with courts ill-suited to fix the flow of internet innovation. AT&T Corp. v. City of Portland, 216 F.3d 871, 876 (9th Cir. 1999). The introduction of new technology is always disruptive to old markets, and particularly to those copyright owners whose works are sold through wellestablished distribution mechanisms. Yet, history has shown that time and market forces often provide equilibrium in balancing interests, whether the new technology be a player piano, a copier, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a personal computer, a karaoke machine, or an MP3 player. Thus, it is prudent for courts to exercise caution before restructuring liability theories for the purpose of addressing specific market abuses, despite their apparent present magnitude. Indeed, the Supreme Court has admonished us to leave such matters to Congress. In Sony-Betamax, the Court spoke quite clearly about the role of Congress in applying copyright law to new technologies. As the Supreme Court stated in that case, "The direction of Art. I is that Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. When, as here, the Constitution is permissive, the sign of how far Congress has chosen to go can come only from Congress." 464 U.S. at 456 (quoting Deepsouth Packing Co. v. Laitram Corp., 406 U.S. 518, 530 (1972)).
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Blogger Christopher Chopin said...

Always nice to see a court refuse to step on the toes of the legislative mandate, but don't you think the door's a little wide open for future arguments that there is no substantial or commercially significant noninfringing use in p2p networks by comparison with the widescale infringement this many plaintiffs can allege, and as such that mere constructive knowledge of the existence of infringement might still be used to punish those providing free access?

Maybe I'm just paranoid...great site!

August 20, 2004 5:32 PM  

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