MGM v. Grokster

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an excellent page summarizing the MGM v. Grokster case and a complete listing of all the supporting court documents and amicus briefs related to the case. From their page:

EFF is defending StreamCast Networks, the company behind the Morpheus peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software, in an important case that will be heard before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 29, 2005.

Twenty-eight of the world’s largest entertainment companies brought the lawsuit against the makers of the Morpheus, Grokster, and KaZaA software products, aiming to set a precedent to use against other technology companies (P2P and otherwise). As we noted in our arguments before the Ninth Circuit, the case raises a question of critical importance at the border between copyright and innovation: When should the distributor of a multi-purpose tool be held liable for the infringements that may be committed by end-users of the tool?

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (a.k.a. the “Sony Betamax ruling”) held that a distributor cannot held liable for users’ infringement so long as the tool is capable of substantial noninfringing uses. In MGM v. Grokster, the Ninth Circuit found that P2P file-sharing software is capable of, and is in fact being used for, noninfringing uses. Relying on the Betamax precedent, the court ruled that the distributors of Grokster and Morpheus software cannot be held liable for users’ copyright violations. The plaintiffs appealed, and in December 2004 the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

“The copyright law principles set out in the Sony Betamax case have served innovators, copyright industries, and the public well for 20 years,” said Fred von Lohmann, EFF’s senior intellectual property attorney. “We at EFF look forward to the Supreme Court reaffirming the applicability of Betamax in the 21st century.”

For more about what’s at stake in the case, see:

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