Congress mulls 'post-Grokster' legislation

Considering the coup de grâce

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday welcomed testimony from parties seeking the legislative final solution to P2P networks during a Capitol Hill hearing confidently entitled "Protecting Copyright and Innovation in a Post-Grokster World."

The labels are clearly encouraged by the recent Supreme Court decision in MGM vs Grokster, which holds that the makers and distributors of technology used primarily to violate copyrights may be liable for infringement, and would like to see the spirit of that decision enshrined in new laws.

However, since that decision, file sharing networks have begun to capitulate, so additional laws are not needed now, at least until the ruling's implications have a chance to emerge in courtroom dramas across the country. But no doubt the labels are eager to press their advantage, and no doubt they're dissatisfied with the Supreme Court's rather fair interpretation of the law.

Aside from content-industry angels like US Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California), who fretted openly that P2P is "going to destroy the intellectual property industries," the Committee's mood overall was cautious, with Chairman Arlen Specter (Republican, Pennsylvania) content to wait and see. "At least in the short term, I think we'll carry out the wishes of those who want [Congress] to do nothing," Specter said in conclusion.

Additionally, the Committee heard a lament from US Registrar of Copyrights Marybeth Peters, who decried the outdated methods by which artists are paid royalties, and warned that the process has got to be brought in line with current technological realities. She did not, however, think that Congress should hurry to begin writing new legislation.

At this point, it appears that the Committee might give the courts a chance to make sense of existing law, and perhaps step in later if that yields confusion and inconsistency, or fails to satisfy the industry's lust for total content control in the guise of copyright protection. ®

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