P2P client distribution legal! - Judge

by Steve Mallett

What a great week for a judge to rule that P2P client distribution is legal!

"A federal judge in Los Angeles has handed a stunning court victory to file-swapping services Streamcast Networks and Grokster, dismissing much of the record industry and movie studios' lawsuit against the two companies.


In an almost complete reversal of previous victories for the record labels and movie studios, federal court Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that Streamcast--parent of the Morpheus software--and Grokster were not liable for copyright infringements that took place using their software. The ruling does not directly affect Kazaa, software distributed by Sharman Networks that has also been targeted by the entertainment industry.


"Defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends," Wilson wrote in his opinion, released Friday. "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."


The court's ruling applies only to existing versions of the Morpheus and Grokster software. Earlier versions of the software, which functioned slightly differently, could potentially leave the companies open to liability."


However, the ruling appeared to state clearly that decentralized peer-to-peer software such as Gnutella is legal, in much the same way that the Sony VCR is protected by law. "




via C|Net


6 Comments

mentata
2003-04-25 12:16:46
sound judgment
After all, where is the line? People trade files using http and ftp, too. Should distributing web and file servers be considered illegal? P2P is a great idea and its development should not be obstructed.
spaceman
2003-04-25 13:24:52
sound judgment
amen.
dkurman
2003-04-27 07:46:26
how does it relate to the verizon ruling
There's still room for abuse but does moving liablity to the end user the answer for p2p?


Without refinements the verizon ruling would probably create a new class of legal predators. Not all of them would be looking out for the good of the record industry.


From the p2p client-side how hard would it be to generate a new account with each request or with some frequency.

spaceman
2003-04-27 08:16:21
how does it relate to the verizon ruling
"There's still room for abuse but does moving liablity to the end user the answer for p2p?


Without refinements the verizon ruling would probably create a new class of legal predators. Not all of them would be looking out for the good of the record industry."


From a strictly legal standpoint (IANAL) I have to say it boils down to the same kind of arguement that people would have to spy on people who use VCRs (I hear people still use those): Can you spy on people because they own one and might! use it to copy TopGun? Not a chance.


So, how can you spy on people who have a net connection, might use a P2P client and might download Madonna's new crud? Well, seeing how the RIAA is experiencing victories all over the legal landscape (unfounded victories in my view) they may end up being able to spy on you. Call you State Representatives.


This is the first victory I've seen that has been positive in recognizing that tools can be used for good and bad and to get rid of the tool because some harm (debateable) might come of it is rediculous.


"From the p2p client-side how hard would it be to generate a new account with each request or with some frequency." The ISPs track IPs so I'd think this would be fairly difficult. Anyone have a suggestion?

jwenting
2003-04-28 06:08:40
sound judgment
If people distribute the copyrighted work of others using any media they should be taken down and made to pay for the entire potential damage they caused.


If the provider for the service (usually an ISP or hosting provider) was in the know about it they too should be punished.


Sadly neither happens enough at current.


While I do agree that there are legitimate uses for P2P software, many such packages are created and distributed with the express purpose of facilitating software and/or music piracy. As such the providers of the software itself are at least in part liable (or should be).

spaceman
2003-04-28 06:26:13
sound judgment
While there are a lot of debatable elements here, on both sides, would you mind scheduling an appointment with me so I can come over and scour your house for cassette tapes that might be used to distribute copyrighted materials?


I'm be facetious, of course, but as much as there are questionable activities taking place how much greater a crime (if there is one) can we commit in the name of stopping a much much lesser one.?