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Monday, June 27, 2005


Grokster ruling prompts a sigh of relief

The US supreme court finally got around to ruling on the Grokster case. I, for one, am relieved with the ruling.

They ruled that software makers could be held responsible IF their software was INTENDED for committing copyright infringement.

Why am I relieved? Well, because it could have been a lot worse. They could have ruled that developers could be held responsible for software that ENABLES copyright infringement. Instead they ruled that you can be held responsible, but only if your software is DESIGNED to commit copyright infringement. This lets BitTorrent off the hook entirely, because Bram Cohen obviously introduced it as a method of distributing large files, and he has gone so far as to say anybody who uses it for copyright infringement is stupid. BitTorrent is truly a case of software that enables copyright infringement without that being the intended goal. Indeed, BitTorrent is not promoted by Cohen as a method of infringement, unlike Grokster was.

On the other hand... This is a VERY slippery slope that the US is going down. They are holding software developers responsible for things that they didn't do. This is the same thing as holding the car manufacturers responsible for the speeding tickets of their customers; why make a car that can go 200 kilometers per hour if the law forbids actually driving that fast? Why make a P2P app for infringing copyright if the law forbids actually using it for that?

Obviously even though I believe that copyright infringement is beneficial to the industry in general and that they are idiots to oppose it like they do, I can't fault the logic of the supreme court. I find nothing wrong with this particular ruling. I'm just terribly worried about where things could go from here.

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