June 28, 2005 1 Comment
By now, I'm sure you've heard about the Grokster decision (PDF). While I was extremely disappointed at first, upon further inspection it may not be quite as bad as some of the original stories made it out to be. While it's still disappointing, I guess it could have been worse. Basically, “one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties.”
The problem is going to be that litigious bastards will do everything in their power to say that some very legitimate apps, such as bittorrent, are being promoted this way. I wonder if Bram Cohen is worried? I haven't seen him publicly comment. I can say that we use bittorrent for 100% legitimate purposes – namely distributing content for LQ Radio. I can also say that it saves us a considerable amount of bandwidth. Thanks Bram! It was great to read that Podcasts were actually used as an example of legitimate non-infringing use for P2P apps.
Another problem I see here is that companies always err on the side of caution when it comes to potential litigation. That means that this case will almost definitely have a negative impact on innovation, which is a real shame. Here's was Scoble and Doc had to say on the issue. As Mark Cuban points out, there was no response from Wall Street on this news, which would seem to indicate that they don't think illegal P2P downloads have any impact on the bottom line of companies like Warner Media Group. I couldn't agree more (and the numbers surely seem to support this). I think Mark sums it up extremely well when he says “The MGM Grokster decision won't help the content business make more money. It wont help artists make more money. This deal gave something to both sides, but it gave the most to lawyers and lobbyists.“. Like the lawyers and lobbyists need more…
Update (06/29/05): Ouch – Maybe Bram does have something to worry about. Goes to show that you never know what comment will come back to bite you four years later (even if your opinion since then has changed).