Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

How About a .45-Caliber Grokster?

On March 29, 2005, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v Grokster, LTD, Docket #04-480. The merit briefs are here.

The issue to be decided is whether or not Grokster (and similar companies such as the defunct Napster, KaZaa, Gnutella, and others) who develop and distribute computer file sharing programs are vicariously liable when young-and-innocents like us use their programs to exchange copyrighted material (usually music) without paying royalties. Copyright infringement is stealing. MGM, representing the recording industry, says that Grokster is not only providing the tools for theft, it is also encouraging theft.

Though not in so many words, Grokster's defense paraphrases the National Rifle Association's mantra, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Grokster's position seems to be that peer-to-peer file sharing software doesn't infringe on copyright, people infringe on copyright.

My gut feeling is that Willy and the Supremes, like the lower courts, are going to find for Grokster. The firearms manufacturers better hope that it does. If the Court rules that vicarious liability attaches to peer-to-peer file sharing software, the court may also find itself being called on to apply the same rules to firearms and the companies that manufacture them. Stare decisis.


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