Monday, June 27, 2005

Is Betamax Buried?

The Supreme Court has ruled. Internet file-sharing companies may be sued if they encourage illegal activity. Necessarily, such a finding of encouragement is a question of fact for a jury to decide.

"'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,' Justice David H. Souter wrote for the court."

It is a great victory for Hollywood, but it's not a total victory. The question now becomes whether or not the RIAA et. al., can drive all of the P2P providers out of business. There are packages that exist which are extremely hard to police (ICQ and mIRC come to mind). And those packages are completely neutral as to advertising and/or content. It makes me wonder where this will all go.

As soon as I've read the opinion, I'll have more comment.


From the opinion:

"Evidence of active steps . . . taken to encourage direct infringement, such as advertising an infringing use or instructing how to engage in an infringing use, show an affirmative intent that the product be used to infringe, and a showing that infringement was encouraged overcomes the law's reluctance to find liability when a defendant merely sells a commercial product suitable for some lawful use..."

Soooo. Even though there was similar evidence in the Betamax case (the Court even discusses Sony's trumpeting the virtues of building "your own library of your favorite shows") SCOTUS declines to draw the parallels.

They have dealt a blow to innovation this day.

Thanks to Ernest Miller for links to the bench opinion.


I forgot to answer my title question: Is Betamax Buried?

Answer: No, but the hole's been dug, it's teetering on the edge, and lots of corporations are set for a big push.

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