Tuesday, February 08, 2005

More on Grokster

Here's another link I found about the Grokster case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court:
http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/archives/000763.html

The post was made on the Freedom to Tinker blog by Dr. Edward Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton University. This particular blog, although not specifically a law blog, deals with issues pertaining to technology. Thus, as my previous posts indicate, the P2P file-sharing debate in the Grokster case falls under that category.

Anyway, Dr. Felten makes a prediction about how the Supreme Court will rule in Grokster. The issue at hand is whether the Grokster software possesses "substantial non-infringing" uses, which would allow it to continue to operate. Technology producers rely on that as their main defense, and that defense was upheld in a 1984 Sony v. Universal case.

However, the folks in Hollywood counter-argue that the non-infringing capabilities of the Grokster software is not enough, in itself, to counterbalance the inevitable infringing uses that come from it. They want the Supreme Court to tighten the standard imposed by the Sony case, stating in briefs that Grokster actually encouraged its users to infringe.

Felten's commentary provides more insight into one of the main issues of the P2P controversy: whether software companies should be held liable for actions taken by those who purchase their software. More to come...

3 Comments:

Blogger Jessie Costello said...

It's an interesting argument, but how could software companies even begin to take responsibility for their product after it is purchased? Once it is in the hands of the buyer/user, I think the company is not longer liable for what happens.

Something to solve this in the future would be to put that caveat in the user agreement to install the software...

February 10, 2005 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger Ben Wickert said...

That is the very question the Court is being asked to interpret. As with Napster, at issue is whether infringing uses are inherent to the design of the software. Your position is the one taken by the software companies. That argument is almost akin to the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument. Clearly, there's no soon end to that argument...

February 10, 2005 at 3:20 PM  
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