Court Rules File Sharing Legal
A federal appeals court has upheld a controversial decision which ruled that file sharing software such as Kazaa, Morpheus or Grokster are indeed legal. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled on Thursday that peer-to-peer software developers were not liable for any copyright infringement committed by people using their products, as long as they had no direct ability to stop the acts.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation argued on behalf of Streamcast, the creator of the Morpheus software. The Ninth Circuit decision is based in part on the fact that P2P networks have significant non-infringing uses, and that they can help artists earn money.
CNet reports that the ruling means that companies that write and distribute peer-to-peer software can’t be shut down because of the actions of their customers.
The court did not rule that peer-to-peer copyrighted file trading is legal, however, the decision answers questions of potential liability from defendants Grokster and StreamCast Networks, as well as from many of their rivals.
“The (record labels and movie studios) urge a re-examination of the law in the light of what they believe to be proper public policy,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote. “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.”
Motion Picture Association of America CEO Jack Valenti said his group is reviewing its options and could appeal. He stressed that the court had not made the file trading of copyrighted works itself legal.
“Today’s decision should not be viewed as a green light for companies or individuals seeking to build businesses that prey on copyright holders’ intellectual property,” Valenti said in a statement. “Businesses that ignore their responsibilities as corporate citizens profoundly undermine innovation in both the creative and technological arenas.”
A Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) executive echoed Valenti’s comments.
“Irrespective of what any court says, a debate has crystallized: it’s legitimate versus illegitimate,” said RIAA Chief Executive Officer Mitch Bainwol in a statement. “It’s whether or not digital music will be enjoyed in a fashion that supports the creative process or one that robs it of its future. That’s the online future of music.”
Copyright holders have been more successful in the past, forcing companies such as Napster, Audiogalaxy and Scour to shut down their file-trading networks.