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March 29, 2005
MGM v. Grokster: The Showdown
Today the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the most important technology and copyright case in two decades. At stake is the future of a legal doctrine that has protected innovators of all stripes since the Court's landmark decision in Universal v. Sony 21 years ago: if your technology is "merely capable" of significant legal uses, you cannot be held responsible for the copyright violations of users.
In this case, the Court will determine whether the makers of the Morpheus, Grokster, and KaZaA software products are protected by the Betamax doctrine -- and, potentially, whether a new test is needed. Will technological innovation dodge another bullet? Or do we face a future where innovators will be forced to beg permission from Hollywood and the recording industry before creating new copying technologies?
My EFF colleagues will be calling in from the courthouse steps immediately after the hearing, and we'll be posting our impressions at EFF's Deep Links weblog; I'll also be cross-posting here @ Copyfight. Stay tuned.
Update: Cory has lots of pointers to Grokster live-blogging, including photos of the brave people who camped out on the courthouse steps last night.
Update #2: Alex Halderman has joined Ed Felten @ Freedom to Tinker and may soon be live-blogging Grokster from there.
Update #3: SCOTUS blog has the first report: "The Supreme Court put on public display Tuesday two conflicting reactions to the apparently widespread practice of downloading copyrighted songs and movies from the Internet: a concern that software makers may be too enthusiastically encouraging the habit, and a concern that copyright law not be made so restrictive that it stifles new surges of technology creativity."
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