Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Analysis: What the ruling against Grokster really means

Filed under
Legal

As this morning's 55-page US Supreme Court decision in MGM v. Grokster has now had time to be fully disseminated and analyzed, consensus is taking shape that even peer-to-peer services not named in the lawsuit may find themselves in legal hot water very soon. By vacating a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and remanding the case back to that circuit, legal analysts told Tom's Hardware Guide, the high court may have made fuzzy what was once a clear interpretation of fair use law: specifically, the matter of secondary copyright infringement liability.

In short, states the syllabus, it may be impossible to sue millions of infringing downloaders, so a plaintiff's only alternative may be to argue that the software manufacturer contributed to those millions of alleged infringements by encouraging them, promoting them, or simply by doing nothing to stop them.

But the Court stopped short of finding Grokster and Streamcast, respectively, guilty of infringement, leaving that for the lower court to determine. "I think this puts emphasis on lower courts looking at the intent of the parties putting forth the software and the system

The Court basically issued a very vague and somewhat schizophrenic ruling about exactly what companies in the digital media space can and can't do." On the one hand, stated Schultz, the Court states that a P2P proprietor cannot encourage infringement; but on the other hand, the decision leaves it to others--perhaps the lower court--to determine what such encouragement entails.

"We're getting into shades of subjectivity, stated P2P United's Eisgrau, "that may well stretch the credulity [of courts] and the ability of courts to deal with. For a technology-driven economy, what you want is an environment in which innovators feel safe to innovate, and investors feel safe to invest in innovators. This opinion today, regrettably, is scary because it swapped that universe of relative certainty for a brave and alarming new world in which there is no such assurance and, in fact, quite the contrary, now I think the watchword for inventors has to be, 'Be afraid; be very afraid.'"

There are still a lot of questions left unanswered. This isn't the definitive word on this topic at all."

Full Analysis.

More in Tux Machines

Arch Linux 2015.03.01 Is Now Available for Download

A brand-new ISO image of the lightweight, highly customizable and powerful Arch Linux computer operating system has been released today, March 1, 2015, for those who want to deploy the acclaimed distribution on new computers. Read more

Cuberox, App-Driven Linux-Based Cube, Has Six Touch Screens

Vancouver-based startup Cuberox launched a new Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday to raise funds for a Linux-based cube of the same name. This gadget sports a touch-enabled screen on each side and is capable of running six apps simultaneously. The campaign is shooting to acquire $150,000 in funding before the March 29, 2015 deadline. Read more

Rancher Labs builds Linux system for Docker

As Docker continues to gain popularity, more and more minimalist operating systems are emerging to run the platform in production and at scale. Rancher Labs recently announced a new open-source operating system designed explicitly for Docker. While Docker is able run on almost any Linux distribution, RancherOS was conceptualized out of the company’s own needs, according to Sheng Liang, founder and CEO of Rancher Labs. Read more

The state of Linux gaming in the SteamOS era

For decades after Linux's early '90s debut, even the hardest of hardcore boosters for the open source operating system had to admit that it couldn't really compete in one important area of software: gaming. "Back in around 2010 you only had two choices for gaming on Linux," Che Dean, editor of Linux gaming news site Rootgamer recalls. "Play the few open source titles, Super Tux Kart and so on, or use WINE to play your Windows titles." Read more