By Jon Newton 6/28/05
Yesterday, a US Supreme Court case in which 28 of the world's largest Hollywood companies had set out to destroy StreamCast Networks and Grokster Ltd, the makers of the Morpheus and Grokster p2 file sharing applications, concluded.
The cartels failed. They did, however, succeed in creating an environment in the US where innovation will be at best, seriously constrained, and in which the threat of Hollywood lawsuits, "may lead technology companies to modify their products to please Hollywood instead of consumers," as EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) lawyer Fred von Lohmann summed it up.
"We hold 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," the court decided unanimously.
But StreamCast ceo Michael Weiss isn't deterred. "In the end, the entertainment industry always embraces what they fear the most.be it player piano roles, FM radio, home video, or cable TV," he told p2pnet in a brief Q&A shortly after the decision was rendered.
p2pnet: On a scale of 1 to 10, how serious is this ruling from StreamCast's perspective?
Weiss: Any decision by the Supreme Court has to be given a 10.
p2pnet: Does it, then, spell the end of Morpheus?
Weiss: No! Today's decision to send the case back to the lower federal court on remand was expected by most parties. However, the media seems to have totally mischaracterized the decision as a loss for us and a win for the entertainment industry.
p2pnet: Just after the decision came down, StreamCast general counsel, Matthew Neco, said, "In every instance where some product might possibly be used for copyright infringement, the copyright holder can now sue and weigh down innovation with expensive, time and resource consuming discovery and trials."
Will the labels now try to simply crush companies such as yours by using their financial and legal weight to overwhelm them with lawsuits?
Weiss: Suing technology companies into submission has been the strategy of the entertainment industry for many, many years now. They thought they'd have an easy win over us, but instead they lost at the US District Federal Court. They then thought they'd have a slam-dunk against us in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. They lost again - unanimously. They hoped the Supreme Court would reverse the decision and shut us down. But that didn't happen either.
p2pnet: Are there other legal recourses open to you?
Weiss: We will have our day in court - actually many days in court - to prove we don't induce copyright infringement from our users. There could be the possibility where this case even ends up back at the Supreme Court one day in the future.
p2pnet: Now the cartels have been able to flex their muscle, what are the chances of StreamCast sitting down with them?
Weiss: We have always maintained there needs to be a business solution to get artists paid - a solution that doesn't include suing individual consumers. We still hold to that.
p2pnet: Do you think we'll now be seeing systems such as Snocap on every p2p application?
Weiss: We don't believe the ruling is a mandate to force developers to fingerprint every file, tag every user, monitor every search and filter every result. We certainly don't want to exist in a world like that.
p2pnet: Have you had any contact with the labels and if not, do you expect any?
Weiss: We expect to have a lot of contact with the label's legal representatives in the months to come. Seriously, I believe the real winners today can be the independent content creators-indie labels or individual artists - they'll be able to stay ahead of the majors in exploiting p2p technology and the networks to gain a fan base and to sell, promote and distribute their works efficiently.
Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.
The Sony PSP is available on Amazon
Other MP3 stories:
MP3 Players for Summer 2005 Part I
MP3 Players for Summer 2005 Part II
Sony PSP As Personal Media Player - Review