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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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Copyfight

« Ninth Circuit Affirms Grokster v. MGM Ruling | Main | The Grokster Decision - Where It's At »

August 19, 2004

Powerful Language from the MGM v. Grokster Decision

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Posted by Jason Schultz

I've just finished reading the Ninth Circuit's decision (PDF). It's a beauty. Not only do they get the technology and the law right, but also the policy. Check out these choice comments at the end of the opinion:

The 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.

Indeed, the Supreme Court has admonished us to leave such matters to Congress. In Sony-Betamax, the Court spoke quite clearly about the role of Congress in applying copyright law to new technologies. As the Supreme Court stated in that case, “The direction of Art. I is that Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. When, as here, the Constitution is permissive, the sign of how far Congress has chosen to go can come only from Congress.” 464 U.S. at 456 (quoting Deepsouth Packing Co. v. Laitram Corp., 406 U.S. 518, 530 (1972)).

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use


COMMENTS

1. Alexander Wehr on August 19, 2004 2:14 PM writes...

When links between policy and economic hardship cannot be proven, or between cigarettes and cancer cannot be proven, or between industrial wasted and wildlife mutation cannot be proven, congress usually refuses to act until positive proof is laid out before them.

But whenever copyright industires state there are links which they cannot substantiate, there are deaths due to trampling in the race to "aid" them from the "evil consumer".

In this case, they will ram through induce, and then refuse to acknowledge the connection between the law and the severe economic damage it causes.

Theyll blame the erratic and recessive behavior of the economy on a meriad of other things before finally, possibly decades in the future, admitting to their mistake. By then, of course, the damage will have been fully wrought.

Permalink to Comment

2. crusher on August 19, 2004 6:49 PM writes...

I find it interesting how Sony is one of the plaintiffs while the Sony-Betamax case is used as the cornerstone precedent from which the ruling draws.

A very interesting illustration the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

It is very refreshing to see a ruling by a court that so clearly and competently (did I use "competently" to describe a court in the year 2004???) understands the issues at hand and applies relevant common sense and applicable precedence to make a ruling.

Permalink to Comment

3. WAREZ MASTER on August 19, 2004 7:03 PM writes...

I AM THE WAREZ MASTER - GIVE ME DA WAREZ!!

Permalink to Comment

4. Branko Collin on August 19, 2004 9:41 PM writes...

"I find it interesting how Sony is one of the plaintiffs while the Sony-Betamax case is used as the cornerstone precedent from which the ruling draws."

Crusher, you may want to read a blog post by Cory Doctorow earlier this year, called Sony's entertainment business is killing its electronics business, which nicely sums up why Sony made an about-face, and how it's going to hurt them.

As far as I can tell, it's got little to do with "be careful what you wish for," and more with Sony turning into a different company. The Sony of today would have sued the Sony of the Betamax years, not because they learned something in the years inbetween, but because they changed their goals.

Apple is going through something similar, except in their case it should be called "Steven Jobs' entertainment portfolio is going to kill Apple's electronics business".

(Of course, Cory could be wrong, but to me his analysis seems to make sense.)

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