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US Supreme Court: Internet file-sharing companies may be sued...


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Read about it here.

 

"We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties," Justice David H. Souter wrote for the court.

 

I like the idea behind the iTunes music store, but I can't stand Digital Rights Management - it's a thorn in the side of many people who have no intention of copyright infringement. And I'll never buy the entertainment company's line that sales are down due to rampant piracy. How about bad product (2 good songs on a CD)? How about high prices (especially for movie tickets - jeez!!!) ? Should the laws of economics not apply to them?

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Not when, as in the case of CDs in the UK, sales by volume are up, and it's only the fact that the average cost of a CD has been brought down by some seriously aggressive supermarkets that has meant sales by value are down.

 

They're blaming this on piracy, too.

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This ruling could very well be a disaster. Finding software developers responsible for how users employ their software is a very, very dangerous move that will probably hamper innovation. Initially, it will probably kill off a number of P2P applications. In the long run, it could give serious, commercial software companies pause before offering software that could be used for piracy.

 

From the excerpts I have seen, the wording in the decision is quite vague with regards to how one decides whether a P2P software company has promoted the use of their software to infringe copyrights. They do lay out how Grokster (the defendant) was doing this:

 

First, each of the respondents showed itself to be aiming to satisfy a known source of demand for copyright infringement, the market comprising former Napster users. Respondents' efforts to supply services to former Napster users indicate a principal, if not exclusive, intent to bring about infringement.

 

Second, neither respondent attempted to develop filtering tools or other mechanisms to diminish the infringing activity using their software. While the Ninth Circuit treated that failure as irrelevant because respondents lacked an independent duty to monitor their users' activity, this evidence underscores their intentional facilitation of their users' infringement.

 

Third, respondents make money by selling advertising space, then by directing ads to the screens of computers employing their software. The more their software is used, the more ads are sent out and the greater the advertising revenue. Since the extent of the software's use determines the gain to the distributors, the commercial sense of their enterprise turns on high-volume use, which the record shows is infringing. This evidence alone would not justify an inference of unlawful intent, but its import is clear in the entire record's context.

 

To me, the first point is simply a historical issue, Napster dies and Grokster was apparently marketed to be it's replacement. I don't see this argument working for other P2P software.

 

Likewise, the 3rd is, I believe, a quirk of how Grokster worked (I never used it). They made money from ads, the more users the more ads they could sell, or the higher the fees per ad. Does any other P2P software do this?

 

The 2nd point is the most general. Essentially it suggests that software writers should make sure that their software can't be used to share copyrighted material by implementing filters or 'other mechanisms'. As well all know, these kinds of methods will always fail in the face of determined users. So are software companies now liable when their users find a way to circumvent their filters? What if the circumvention turns out to be simple? Can that be taken to mean that the software company wasn't serious about preventing infringement by their users? If you were writing software that could be used to infringe on copyrights by a user bent on doing so, would you think twice about releasing it? I would.

 

I think this ruling means we're about to see the entertainment industry sue the pants off as many software and hardware companies as they can. Think about Apple's "Rip. Mix. Burn" campaign, which originally advertised iTunes (before it was a store). As of today, I'm certain the RIAA would sue Apple, and according to this ruling, the RIAA should win, because Apple was encouraging the use of their software and hardware for infringement.

 

One article I read about this, suggested similarities to this case and the Betamax copyright trial 20 years ago where Sony was being sued because the Betamax VCR could be used to record copyrighted material. Sony won. Imagine if they had lost, what would have happened to the VCR?

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I think it really comes down to whether or not the file sharing service decides to take action and shows they give a crap about protecting the IP. If they show they care and do something about it actively, then I don't see many of these services being sued.

 

It really puts the onus on the file sharing companies to know what their software is being used for and do something about any illegal activity that occurs on their service.

 

If they don't, they deserve to be sued for negligence.

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The result I see from a decision like this would be for P2P software companies to make offshore originated corporations (like in Bermuda) and run all their sales through the internet. They don't pay any taxes and effectively have no USA presence that can be sued or shut down.

 

I don't know, it seems like the RIAA and others would be better off just chasing their own tails than pursuing this segment of the population.

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It really puts the onus on the file sharing companies to know what their software is being used for and do something about any illegal activity that occurs on their service.

 

Let's try a little experiment here, I'm going to quote you again, change a few nouns, and we'll see how it reads.

 

It really puts the onus on gun manufacturers to know what their guns is being used for and do something about any illegal activity that occurs using their guns.

 

Maybe you think that's not a fair representation of your argument, but I'm interested to hear why.

 

The result I see from a decision like this would be for P2P software companies to make offshore originated corporations (like in Bermuda) and run all their sales through the internet. They don't pay any taxes and effectively have no USA presence that can be sued or shut down.

 

I doubt that many of these companies, like say BitTorrent for example, have the financial capacity to do this. So much of this software is written by high-school and college kids, they don't have the resources or time to jump through these hoops. It would be easier to just give up on your file-sharing software project and work on something 'safer' that's not likely to get you sued if the RIAA, MPAA, or whomever decide that your program can be used to infringe on their copyrights. Simply the threat of a lawsuit, which just became a lot more likely today, will prevent many people from bothering to try new things in this arena.

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Maybe you think that's not a fair representation of your argument, but I'm interested to hear why.

because the ruling stated....

can be sued if they encourage their users to illegally swap copyrighted works
If gun makers market their guns as the best cop killers in town, or the #1 drive by shooter, you can rest assured they will be sued. :tu
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because the ruling stated....

If gun makers market their guns as the best cop killers in town' date=' or the #1 drive by shooter, you can rest assured they will be sued. :tu[/quote']

 

Fair enough. Although there are ways of clearly demonstrating killing power aside from saying so outright, just as there are ways of demonstrating ease-of-stealing without actually saying it. (I rather doubt that Grokster actually said "our software makes it easy to steal!") According to the dozen or so articles I've read, exactly what constitutes encouragement is not clear from the ruling. This is why a lot of coders and companies are going to shy away from producing software that could be construed that way, even if it's something like Apple's "Rip. Mix. Burn." campaign which applies to fair-use just as easily as piracy.

 

The ruling has left a lot of gray areas, and as I said above, the simple threat of lawsuits will keep many people from bothering to mess with creating software that may be construed as encouraging piracy.

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Id like to see what happens when Microsoft makes its P2P software it announced last week

 

capt

 

It's not Microsoft's software and it wasn't announced. Avalanche was just a research type project done under Microsoft, it was never planned to be an actual product.

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There already has been many, mostly failed, attempts to sue gun manufacturers due to crimes committed by stupid, scumbags.

 

If we're going to blame say, Glock, for some crack dealing, piece of shit, killing some kid in a drive by, then why not blame eating utensils for Rosie O'Donell being a fat ass?

 

This can trascend all sorts of scenerios. Just becomes an exercise in stupidity.

 

I just feel that individuals need to take responsibility for their own actions. This pointing the finger and blaming everyone else, is rampant here in the US. It's why we, as a nation, have FAR more lawyers than any other country on the face of the earth, and we have no where near the largest population.

 

As for file sharing, I'm sure you can figure out which side I'm on. Although, I will admit, after years of using p2p software, I'm getting tired of the increased difficulty of trying to find music that isn't hacked, or sabotaged.

 

I swear that I must have downloaded certain songs, dozens and dozens of times, just to MAYBE find one good version of it.

 

I've since moved to Microsofts online music store and, for .99 cents, no lawsuits, good sounding copy, ease of use, it's bought me out.

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