The Supremes Landmark Ruling on MGM vs. Grokster

The Supreme Court has ruled against Grokster. See "Supreme Court Rules against File Swapping" and "Court: File-Sharing Services May Be Sued" for details. For background information, see "File-Swap Fallout in Supreme Court Ruling" and the EFF’s MGM v. Grokster page. For in-depth discussion of the underlying issues, see Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation and Sonic Boom listed at "Digital Works Want to Be Free ."

The key quote in the ruling is:

For the same reasons that Sony took the staple-article doctrine of patent law as a model for its copyright safeharbor rule, the inducement rule, too, is a sensible one for copyright. We adopt it here, holding that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties. We are, of course, mindful of the need to keep from trenching on regular commerce or discouraging the development of technologies with lawful and unlawful potential. Accordingly, just as Sony did not find intentional inducement despite the knowledge of the VCR manufacturer that its device could be used to infringe, 464 U. S., at 439, n. 19, mere knowledge of infringing potential or of actual infringing uses would not be enough here to subject a distributor to liability. Nor would ordinary acts incident to product distribution, such as offering customers technical support or product updates, support liability in themselves. The inducement rule, instead, premises liability on purposeful, culpable expression and conduct, and thus does nothing to compromise legitimate commerce or discourage innovation having a lawful promise.

The EFF provides other key quotes.

Here’s an interesting take on the ruling: "File-Sharing Decision Hardly Apocalyptic".

ARL issued a statement for the Library Copyright Alliance that said:

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA)­a group composed of the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association, and Special Libraries Association ­welcomes this balanced decision that supports the interests of libraries while addressing issues of widespread copyright infringement. By focusing on conduct that induces infringement, rather than on the distribution of technology, the decision ensures the continued availability of new and evolving digital technologies to libraries and their patrons.

The Center for Democracy and Technology’s press release said:

The court has worked to craft careful balance that allows copyright owners to pursue bad actors, but still protect the rights of technology makers. We hope this decision will preserve the climate of innovation that fostered the development of everything from the iPod to the Internet itself.

The EFF was less sanguine in their press release:

This decision relies on a new theory of copyright liability that measures whether manufacturers created their wares with the “intent” of inducing consumers to infringe. It means that inventors and entrepreneurs will not only bear the costs of bringing new products to market, but also the costs of lawsuits if consumers start using their products for illegal purposes.

And, of course, many bloggers weighed in as seen in Eric Goldman’s roundup, the lively discussion on SCOTUSblog, and the tsunami of comments on Slashdot.

According to "Congress Applauds File-Sharing Ruling" Congress is unlikely to take any immediate action as a result of the ruling.

Robert Summer, former head of the Recording Industry Association of America and former president of Sony Music International, said of the music industry reaction to the verdict: "The response across the board was one of elation."


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