Countdown to Grokster v MGM

By Jon Newton 3/19/05

he Betamax ruling in 1984 freed inventors to create new copying technologies provided they were capable of, “substantial noninfringing (legal) uses,” says the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation).

But all that could change if Hollywood is successful in pressuring the US Supreme Court into overturning two previous court rulings that, plainly and unequivocally, say Grokster and StreamCast Networks can't be held responsible for what users of their Grokster and Morpheus p2p applications do with them.

Jon Newton

If you want chapter and verse of who's saying what StreamCast, represented by the EFF, has magnet links to the various documents on both sides here.

"In MGM v. Grokster, Hollywood and the recording industry are asking for the power to sue out of existence any technology that appears to be a threat, even if it passes the Betamax test," says the EFF. "

"That puts at risk any copying technology that Betamax currently protects as well as any new technologies Hollywood doesn't like."

To drive home exactly what’s at stake, the foundation is profiling one Betamax-protected gadget every weekday until the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on March 29.

Some examples are in fun, some more serious, “but all represent general-purpose technologies that can be used for both infringing and non-infringing purposes”.

‘ Xerox’ is now synonymous with copying so appropriately, it’s the first item up.

Next in line is TCP/IP


This technology allows the perfect and reliable copying of digital data from one "host" to one or more other hosts on a millisecond time scale, regardless of the geographical location of the hosts, the physical medium or media connecting them (including but not limited to copper, fiber-optic cables, lasers, air, and pigeons), the reliability of the medium, or the nature of the data itself.

Published in September 1981 by DARPA researchers working at the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.

What this machine has made possible
This and all web pages, email, instant messaging, and Voice over IP.


Jon Newton is the editor of 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.


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