Momentum Builds to Knock Down File-Sharing

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked by numerous organizations to hear a claim brought by the recording and film industries against Internet file-sharing companies Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc.

Among Monday's petitioners siding with the industries were the Video Software Dealers Association, Association of American Publishers, Screen Actors Guild, Recording Artists Coalition, National Basketball Association and the commissioner of Major League Baseball. In addition, 41 state attorneys general also submitted briefs.

Briefs were also filed on behalf of recording artists Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow, as well as online music retailers Napster, MusicNet and DVD subscription provider NetFlix.

The organizations, state attorney generals and artists asked the court to finally resolve conflicting lower court rulings on file-sharing. They argued file-sharing programs pose risks to consumers, such as identity theft and being unwittingly exposed to spyware and child pornography.

In August, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court ruling in a copyright lawsuit brought by the entertainment industry against Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc. But that ruling only applies to the states under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit.

In 2003, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that successfully closed the Madster file-sharing service.

Attorneys for StreamCast, which operates Morpheus, filed a brief with the court, asking the justices not to overturn the 9th Circuit's ruling.

"The petitioners are grasping for straws when they disingenuously assert that the Supreme Court should review the matter," the company's lawyers wrote in a brief. "The law is clear and has already been decided."

Charles Baker of the Houston-based Porter & Hedges and he Electronic Frontier Foundation represent StreamCast Networks in the case, joined by StreamCast's Matthew A. Neco, on the opposition brief, while the San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest represents Grokster.

"The 9th Circuit got it right and applied the Supreme Court's own precedent in the Sony Betamax case," EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann said. "There is no reason to revisit the unanimous ruling of the 9th Circuit and insert judges into the design rooms of technologists across the nation."

U.S. justices are expected to decide whether it will take the case before the end of the year.

The case is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer vs. Grokster, No. 04-480.