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« Supreme Court Reverses Grokster -- Unanimously | Main | And Now, a Word from the Grokster Defense »

June 27, 2005

MGM v. Grokster -- What Happened?

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Here's the ruling itself [PDF], finding that "one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."

Much to absorb. Back with more soon.

A few key spots for watching the conversation unfold:

The Wall Street Journal Grokster Roundtable, where Ernie Miller argues that despite the "tough" treatment of Grokster and StreamCast, the ruling itself "may turn out to be a significant victory for technology providers in general."

The SCOTUS Blog forum, where C.E. Petit argues that the Court "evaded the biggest question: What is the limit of the Sony doctrine?"

Picker's MobBlog, where Douglas Lichtman opines that the movie studios et al. have a "hollow" victory, "MGM won on paper today, but my first reading of the opinion makes me wonder whether the victory will have any bite outside of this specific litigation. Intent-based standards, after all, are among the easiest to avoid. Just keep your message clear -- tell everyone that your technology is designed to facilitate only authorized exchange -- and you have no risk of accountability. This is not the standard I was hoping for."

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations


1. Merkidemis on June 27, 2005 12:21 PM writes...

Note that they have to promote its illegal use. If they discourage it or are neutral then they are fine.

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2. Thad Anderson on June 27, 2005 12:24 PM writes...

Here is a BitTorrent link to a 313 kB zip file containing the Court's opinion and the concurrences by Justices Ginsberg and Breyer.


I think that a key aspect of the opinion is when the Court distinguishes Grokster from the Betamax case, noting that "[h]ere, evidence of the distributors' words and deeds going beyond distribution as such shows a purpose to cause and profit from third-party acts of copyright infringement." To augment this argument, the Court cites examples of Grokster advertising its service as a rival to Napster, and Grokster execs writing emails to users providing advice re: copyright issues.

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3. Western Infidels on June 27, 2005 12:31 PM writes...

Bizarre. There are products on the market which are explicitly intended to help the purchaser commit a crime; radar detectors, "pass your emissions test" fuel additives, license-plate hiding sprays, drug-test passing gizmos and chemicals, DVD backup software, No-CD video game unlockers, etc. It's pretty much impossible to promote such stuff without promoting illegal uses, as illegal uses are the only uses. Are the makers of such things now liable for every crime committed with the assistance of their products?

Permalink to Comment

4. Jonathan Moore on June 27, 2005 1:37 PM writes...

To me the key is page 27 paragraph two and its foot note . It seems to support the idea that you don't have to build your tech to stop infringemnt. I think over all this is a win for techonlagy. There is the issue that now you have to be really carfule to not appear to be supportave of infringment but I acculy see that as some what reasonable.

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5. Brad Hutchings on June 27, 2005 2:21 PM writes...

There is the issue that now you have to be really carfule to not appear to be supportave of infringment but I acculy see that as some what reasonable.

Welcome to the dark side Jonathan. If you haven't already shredded and incinerated your copyfight memebership card, a facilitator will be there to help you with that task shortly.

Other than the means, my predictions on this (see Hack the Planet, Moore's Lore, my own blog) were spot on. FWIW, I thought they would clarify Betamax rather than issue a new test. My iPod is still legal. Reason has won the day.

Permalink to Comment

6. Jonathan Moore on June 27, 2005 3:26 PM writes...

To clearify what I think is some what reasonable is that if you are bleantly promoting your tools for infringment that you are liable under the current copy right law. Questions of weathere current copy right law is a good balance are a diffrnet issue. But as a free soft ware advcot I must respect the copy right of otheres if I want them to respect my copy right and houner the GPL ect. This dissition is more a problime for buessness that want to create products that may have infringing use as the cort was vauge about when you could bring sute agnest them and proform discvery in trying to prouve that they were intending/prmoting ther techonolagy for infringment. It opens busnesses up to the worry that they may be forsed in to costly discovery and that some internal memmeo may be missrepresented as evidance that they were promoting infringment even if they were in all good faith not doing so.

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