All eyes are on the Supreme Court, with a decision in this important case predicted as early as next week. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is defending StreamCast Networks, the company behind the Morpheus
peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software.
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). 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
in Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios,
Inc. (a.k.a. the "Sony Betamax ruling") held that a distributor cannot
be 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 agreed to hear the case.
"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."
Read more from the EFF and get ready for this extremely important decision.