MPAA asks Supreme Court to crush P2Pers

Overturn District Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals verdicts, please

The Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA), along with its audio alternative, the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) are appealing against their failed appeal in a bid to make P2P software suppliers accountable for the actions of their users.

Unsatisfied with the Los Angeles District Court's April 2003 ruling that, since there were sufficient legitimate uses for P2P software, Grokster, Streamcast and their ilk could not be held responsible for illegitimate uses, the MPAA appealed against that decision.

However, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August this year that the lower court had been correct, and upheld District Court Judge Stephen Wilson's original verdict.

That 2003 ruling led the RIAA, for one, to target individual file-sharers, a move that has since seen the issuing of over thousands of lawsuits against named and unnamed North Americans. In the UK, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) organisation last week commenced its own series of lawsuits against alleged illegal file-sharers.

Now comes attempt three, with the MPAA, RIAA and others petitioning the Supreme Court. Again, their argument centres on P2P software providers' awareness that their code is being used for illegal purposes, and that they do nothing to thwart such uses.

Napster was brought down on similar grounds, but that was because it's use of a central server to facilitate file-transfers allowed the music industry to claim it was aiding and abetting illegal shares. Not to Grokster and co., who avoided such centralisation when developing their own P2P code.

However, the plaintiffs are likely to argue again that today's content sniffing technologies allow P2P software makers to prevent illegal file sharing. That, they say, contrasts the case with Sony's famous victory over the movie industry, which ensured the consumer electronics giant could not be held culpable for misuse of its Betamax video recorders. Quite apart from the products' legitimate uses, at the time, it was argued, Sony had no way of preventing illegitimate uses. That's no longer the case, says the RIAA.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce in November whether or not it will hear the case, but Grokster and Streamcast's lawyers may yet push for an extension, taking the case well into the new year. ®

Related stories

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Grokster, Morpheus face MPAA in appeals court
Judge backs P2P file traders
Aussie judge sets Kazaa trial date
UK record industry sues 28 file-sharers
UK music biz set to sue file-sharers

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