Grokster decision: ‘prudent for court to exercise caution’

Dan Gillmor’s eJournal notes “Important Copyright Ruling Favors Freedom. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has upheld the Grokster decision,
in which a peer-to-peer file-sharing service was ruled not to be
violating copyright law. In that decision, a federal judge ruled,
essentially, that a product that has legitimate uses can’t be deemed
illegal because some people use it for unlawful purposes.
The appeals panel’s ruling (PDF) makes vital points including these:

Copyright Owners urge a re-examination of the law in the light of what
they believe to be proper public policy, expanding exponentially the
reach of the doctrines of contributory and vicarious copyright
infringement. Not only would such a renovation conflict with binding
precedent, it would be unwise. Doubtless, taking that step would
satisfy the Copyright Owners’ immediate economic aims. However, it
would also alter general copyright law in profound ways with unknown
ultimate consequences outside the present context.
Further, as we have observed, we live in a quicksilver technological
environment with courts ill-suited to fix the flow of internet
innovation. AT&T Corp. v. City of Portland, 216 F.3d 871, 876 (9th
Cir. 1999). The introduction of new technology is always disruptive to
old markets, and particularly to those copyright owners whose works are
sold through well established distribution mechanisms. Yet, history has
shown that time and market forces often provide equilibrium in
balancing interests, whether the new technology be a player piano, a
copier, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a personal computer, a
karaoke machine, or an MP3 player. Thus, it is prudent for courts to
exercise caution before restructuring liability theories for the
purpose of addressing specific market abuses, despite their apparent
present magnitude.”

“This is an important ruling, and let’s hope its logic spreads widely.

(Via Michael Geist via Interesting People.)

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.