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MGM v. Grokster

03/30/05 | by [mail] | Categories: culture/news

Yesterday hearings began for the Supreme Court case of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster, Ltd. This is a very important case. The movie studio is suing the creator of a peer to peer file sharing network, because the software makes it easy for users to exchange copyrighted material.

This case is not about whether it's legal or illegal to trade copyrighted material. That is already well established. What MGM is trying to do is hold the technology responsible. They want to make it illegal to create products that have the potential for copyright infringement. If they win this case, then it may overturn the Court's earlier decision of Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios, in which the Court ruled that Sony's Betamax recorder was legal even though it could be used for copyright infringement. This is the case that has made it possible for us to have the VCR, TiVo, iPod and really the personal computer. If technology that can infringe copyright is outlawed, then none of those things would be legal.

Let's take a quick roll call of supporters for each side. In the MGM corner we have the MPAA, RIAA, ASCAP, Bush administration, Major League baseball, Napster LLC, the Christian Coalition and a few major recording artists. In the Grokster corner: EFF, Creative Commons, Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Mark Cuban, and several independent recording artists (this LA Times story explains why independent artists support file-sharing). You can look over a more complete list and read the briefs that the supporters have filed here and here.

Here is a brief summary of the first day's hearings.


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