US court demands stronger copyright filters for Morpheus

Grist to the Viacom-YouTube mill?

But he stopped short of barring its distribution completely, saying that "could constitute an inappropriate extension of Plaintiffs' copyrights. Plaintiffs should not lightly be given total control over a product capable of substantial noninfringing uses."

The language proposed for the injunction by MGM would shut down StreamCast until it installed a "perfect" filter that would prevent any infringement. Judge Wilson said that no such mechanism exists, nor is it technologically feasible. He also doubted that an immediate shutdown order "would most effectively stop further infringement." He saw it as beneficial to the plaintiffs' rights to allow StreamCast to distribute filtering software and take steps to encourage end-users into accepting an upgrade.

"A permanent injunction will issue requiring StreamCast to reduce Morpheus's infringing capabilities, while preserving its core noninfringing functionality, as effectively as possible," he wrote. Its steps will include encouraging end-users to upgrade from non-filtered legacy software.

StreamCast objected to MGM's demand for 'state of the art' filtering, saying it was cost prohibitive. Judge Wilson was unsympathetic, though. "Cost is not likely to be a controlling factor, as the injunction will be designed primarily to protect Plaintiffs' copyrights," he wrote.

Judge Wilson appointed a 'special master' to select "the most effective means available" to reduce the infringing capabilities of Morpheus "while preserving its noninfringing uses as feasible."

He also ordered the Plaintiffs to provide details of copyrighted works to StreamCast, something it has hitherto refused to do. This should include artist and title, a certification of ownership, and some evidence that one or more files containing each work is available on the Morpheus system.

Comment

David Woods, a litigator with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, described it as a clever ruling.

"Although the permanent injunction that MGM requested for was not granted, the effect of the ruling could well be the same," said Woods. "It seems from the ruling that 'once an infringer, always an infringer', and although StreamCast is still allowed to use its software, it now faces a potentially insurmountable hurdle. It's more of a financial one than a technological one, though."

Woods said the Judge is demanding a filter that is more effective than StreamCast's current system.

"The judge accepts that perfect filters are not realistic. But he is also saying that the company has to pay for the most effective solution that the market can offer. He's unmoved by StreamCast's claim that it can't afford these third party systems," he said.

"In any event, StreamCast's demise could well be sealed by the damages award, which has still to come," said Woods.

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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