The entertainment industry yesterday unleashed its latest assault on Internet services that let people swap music and videos, enlisting an array of artists, state officials, academics and others to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to crack down on companies that provide file-sharing tools.
Trade associations representing the major movie and recording studios released court papers arguing that popular file-sharing networks Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc. are "breeding grounds" for piracy on an unprecedented scale and should be accountable for the illegal actions of their users. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments March 29 in the case, which could determine the fate of services whose software is used by tens of millions of people every day.
U.S. Asks High Court to Curb File Swapping (The Washington Post, Jan 25, 2005)
Tech Firms to Seek Legal Protection From Pirating (The Washington Post, Jan 24, 2005)
High Court To Weigh File Sharing (The Washington Post, Dec 11, 2004)
Appeals Court Ruling Favors File-Sharing (The Washington Post, Aug 20, 2004)
File-Swap Sites Not Infringing, Judge Says (The Washington Post, Apr 26, 2003)
Special Coverage Documents filed in the MPAA's P2P file-sharing litigation against Grokster and StreamCast Networks are collected here.
The entertainment industry was joined by filings from a star-studded supporting cast that includes musicians such as crooner Tom Jones and pop singer Avril Lavigne, 39 state attorneys general, the Christian Coalition of America, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, professional sports leagues and a roster of university law professors and economists.
"I've been robbed," Rick Carnes, who heads the Songwriters Guild of America, said at a news conference. "My property is being stolen."
Also filing briefs largely in favor of the industry's position were the U.S. solicitor general, who argues on behalf of the federal government, and Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
At issue for the court will be to what extent the provider or manufacturer of a product or service can be held responsible for the actions of those who use it.
File-sharing services and several digital-rights advocacy groups argue that a key 1984 Supreme Court decision, involving early videocassette recorders made by Sony Corp., established critical protections for innovators against possible bad acts by users. Like copying machines and telephone networks, the "peer-to-peer" file-sharing tool is used for illegal and legal purposes, they say.
Grokster and StreamCast were sued by the entertainment industry in 2001. A federal district court in Los Angeles sided with Grokster, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in August. The courts, citing the Sony decision, ruled that Grokster had substantial legal uses and could not control the actions of its users without overhauling the product.
Representing the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, attorney Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said that the 9th Circuit misinterpreted the Sony decision.
He said that if a product or service is primarily used for illegal purposes, the provider should be held accountable. Moreover, he said, the courts also should be able to hold providers responsible if they are able to take steps to halt the illegal behavior, which Verrilli said the file-sharing networks could accomplish.