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File-sharing mavens win latest court round

Thu, 08/19/2004 - 8:00pm
Karen Brown

The latest court decision in the see-saw battle between file-sharing advocates and major movie and music outlets fell in favor of the file sharing crowd.

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Los Angeles yesterday upheld a lower district court ruling that online file-sharing outlets including Grokster Ltd. are not liable for copyright infringement based on piracy activities of customers who bought their software and services. As with the lower court, the appeals court found that while copyright pirates could use the software to illegally pilfer movies and music, it also could be used for legitimate distribution with permission from the copyright holders. Because the studios and labels had not proven the file sharing services had specific knowledge that customers were using the software to pirate content, they couldn't be held liable.

The ruling also noted the entertainment plaintiffs' request to re-examine the laws and possibly expand their reach to cover new peer-to-peer technology would constitute an overhaul of existing copyright standards.

"Doubtless taking that step would satisfy the Copyright Owners' immediate economic aims," Judge Sydney Thomas stated in his opinion. "However, it would also alter general copyright laws in profound ways with unknown ultimate consequences outside the present context."

Furthermore, Thomas noted the U.S. Supreme Court has in the past directed lower courts to "leave such matters to Congress."

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