Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Supreme Victory for Copyright Holders

Yesterday's unanimous ruling in the Metro Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster case represents a long overdue victory for copyright holders. Grokster's specious argument that restricting its rights to distribute its P2P software would contradict the Court's wastershed Betamax ruling was revealed by the judges for the smoke screen that it was.

Grokster's assertion that it should not be held liable for how its technology is deployed by users would suggest that Grokster was in a business analogous to general purpose software development and the company was an innocent bystander in some egregious mis-use of its technology. The justices got it right and overtly stated that Grokster's "acted with a purpose to cause copyright violations." Moreover the justices found "substantial evidence" that the company's products encourages users to illegally swap copyrighted movies and music.

Grokster's other assertion that such a ruling would stifle the creativity of technology innovators was merely a fear mongering tactic as opposed to a factual accounting of how innovators who work within the boundaries of intellectual property law are not only prospering, but giving consumers what they want. One need look no further than Apple's success with iTunes, Yahoo's subscription music service, and NetFlix DVD rental business to see how innovators who respect copyright innovate their way forward to profitability.

The genie is out of the bottle and certainly P2P is not about to go away. I for one would be delighted to see legitimate P2P companies like Weedshare and SnoCap flourish in this new environment. Hopefully yesterday's ruling will make the way clear for innovation in digital media distribution that works in concert with the interests of artists and copyright holders.

Thank you Justices for getting it right.

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