alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

New Hurdles for Digital Culture

This morning, the Supreme Court ruled in the MGM Studios v. Grokster(PDF link) case, a long-awaited decision on whether peer-to-peer filesharing networks can be held liable for users sharing pirated, copyrighted materials.

In short: the Supremes ruled 9-0 against Grokster, but it's not a clear victory for the MPAA. As professor Michael Geist wrote in an ongoing Wall Street Journal Roundtable on the decision, "Grokster certainly didn't win this case, but more importantly, P2P technology didn't lose."

The film and music industries' representatives wanted a unanimous ruling against Grokster and StreamCast: these companies urged users to steal copyrighted materials, they argued, and how will artists get paid if this goes unpunished? On the other hand, while "copyfighters" probably couldn't hope for a Grokster win, groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the Supremes to uphold the principles in the Betamax case, which says that developers of a technology can't be held responsible for potentially illegal uses of their inventions. If the court overturned this idea, copyfighters say, technological innovation would essentially hit a brick wall.

What the ruling does say is that companies intentionally profiting from copyright infringement can be held liable. What it does not say, to the great relief of software developers and the EFF, is that companies can be held liable for infringement by users of its software.

Much, much more discussion on Grokster and other Supremes rulings at the SCOTUS blog.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close