Industries Petition Supreme Court Over P2P

Jeff Berg
WASHINGTON — Movies studios and record companies filed a joint petition to the U.S. Supreme Court today, asking that it overturn a series of recent controversial decisions that have favored file-swappers and peer-to-peer networks.

“This is one of the most important copyright cases ever to reach this court,” said the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America in the petition.

“Resolution of the question presented here will largely determine the value, indeed the very significance, of copyright in the digital era,” the petition reads.

The two groups are seeking for the court to rule on whether file-swapping developers should be required to design their products to deter copyright infringement, according to the filing.

“These companies have expressly designed their businesses to avoid all legal liability, with the full knowledge that over 90 percent of the material traversing their applications belongs to someone else,” said Dan Glickman, chief executive officer of the MPAA, in a statement released today.

According to the filings, both the MPAA and the RIAA are seeking to have several cases overturned, including one in which a Los Angeles federal judge ruled that Grokster and its creators and distributors could not be held liable for the actions of its users.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that Grokster was not any different than companies like Sony and Hewlett-Packard, which produce video recorders and CD-R drives that can be used to violate copyright laws.

“[The] defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose it employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends,” Wilson ruled.

Wilson’s ruling was recently upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in August.

The petition has met with criticism from technology consumer groups, though, who feel that it has no place in the Supreme Court’s hands.

“There is no reason the Supreme Court should review the decision,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, in a statement. “That case was based on the principles established in the 1984 Betamax case, which has led to the largest and most profitable period of technological innovation in this country’s history. Consumers, industry and our country have all benefited as a result.”