Monday, June 27, 2005

Grokking the Grokster Ruling

(via Freedom To Tinker) SCOTUSblog has an interesting and insightful discussion of the Supreme Court ruling on Grokster. I can't really comment on the legal wisdom or foundation of the court's arguments, but it is about as good as we could have hoped for from a policy standpoint.

It was clear that a balance had to be struck between the rights of the copyright holders (MGM) and the freedom for technological innovation. The worst that could have happened would have been for (a) the Supremes to rule in favor of Grokster, which would have set Congress off to draft a crazy piece of over-broad legislation that doomed technology; or (b) to have a ruling against the Grokster technology declaring it to be direct contributory infringement.

The court carefully sidestepped option (b), and focused on Grokster's business side in suggesting that there was enough evidence of inducement to warrant a trial. Some of those arguments don't really make sense as Ed Felten points out, but the ruling does have the effect of both staving off legislative action and clarifying the legality of the underlying technology.

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