P2P Networks Not Responsible for Copyright

Whilst acknowledging that copyright infringements do happen on P2P networks, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that P2P network owners and software developers can’t be held responsible for them.

Ironically, this is the same appeals court that ruled against Napster in 2001. The difference this time? Napster kept a catalogue of all available titles on a central server. The court made reference to the oft-quoted 1984 Sony Betamax case where film studios attempted to ban video recorders – the Supreme Court ruled that being potentially able to infringe copyright was not reason to ban a technology with legitimate uses.

The presiding judge, Sidney R Thomas said: “The introduction of new technology is always disruptive to old markets, and particularly to those copyright owners whose works are sold through well- established distribution mechanisms. History has shown that time and market forces often provide equilibrium in balancing interests, whether the new technology be a player piano, a copier, a tape recorder, a video recorder, a personal computer, a karaoke machine or an MP3 player.”

He then went on to point out how well studios had done out of home video sales, demonstrating that they were now worth more than cinema ticket sales.

Michael Weiss, head of StreamCast Networks, said in a statement:”As CEO, I am proud that Morpheus has become the first American P2P company to successfully win its fight for the right to continue to develop innovative new distributed communications technologies. In today’s ruling, the 9th Circuit Court has affirmed our strong conviction from day one that developing Morpheus was not just legally our right, but morally was the right thing to do.”

The MPAA and RIAA will not be pleased – the next stop for them is Washington, and Congress.


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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?