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Saturday, April 26, 2003

For Once Some Good News

For once a federal judge seems to have made a good, forward looking and coherent decision:

Two years after an appeals court hammered the final nail in Napster's coffin, a new federal ruling will allow two remaining file-trading platforms to continue operating. Delivering a significant victory for peer-to-peer networks, a federal judge ruled Friday that two popular file-trading services should not be held liable for copyright infringement committed by their users.

In his decision, Judge Stephen Wilson of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles found that the service operators, Grokster and Streamcast Networks, do not have direct control over the files swapped on their networks. Without evidence of their active and substantial contribution to the infringement, he wrote, the file-trading services cannot be held liable.

"Grokster and Streamcast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights," Wilson wrote in the summary judgment. The case stems from lawsuits filed against three of the largest peer-to-peer networks by a group of more than 20 Hollywood studios, led by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and major music labels, led by Arista Records. The music producers and film studios originally filed separate suits, which later were consolidated into a single action. Notably, neither side contested the facts of the case, with both Grokster and Streamcast, which operates the file-trading site Morpheus, acknowledging that some users did in fact use their services to illegally trade copyright works. The central question was whether the file-trading services should be held liable for contributing to copyright infringement for providing a forum that allowed the illegal activities to occur. Michael Page, the attorney representing Grokster, said the ruling validated one of his main arguments, which was that a new technology with many useful and legal purposes should not be blocked out of fear it could be used the wrong way.
Source: Wired News

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