Maker of the knife, guilty of murder

The US Supreme Court, despite recent progressive gestures such as the recent uncovering of Justice’s tit (which Ashcroft had had previously covered), ruled today that P2P network providers can be liable for illegal activities of their users. It is like ruling that the maker of a knife is guilty of any murder that is commited with that knife. But in the P2P case it is even worse, as it means that virtually anyone who provides a new technology can be liable for any illicit activities others might use it for.

The media is all over the ruling. Here go some quotes:

BBC NEWS - File-sharing suffers major defeat:

Michael McGuire, from analyst firm GartnerG2, said: “It’s something of a surprise. It will be interesting to see how record labels respond. It could be argued that these peer-to-peer services were the most efficient way to deliver rich media.”

The decision could also have an impact on any technology firm developing gadgets or devices that let people enjoy media on the move.

If strictly interpreted the ruling means that these hi-tech firms will have to try to predict the ways people can use these devices to pirate copyrighted media and install controls to stop this infringement.

The ruling could also prompt a re-drafting of copyright laws by the US Congress.

El Pa?ɬ?s - El supremo de EE UU dictamina que se puede responsabilizar del pirateo a las redes P2P:

La justicia norteamericana ha desestimado un fallo de un tribunal de apelaciones y considera que las redes P2P como Emule, Grokster o BitTorrent, pueden ser procesadas por violar los derechos de autor, independientemente de que estas mismas redes se puedan utilizar adem?ɬ�s para intercambiar todo tipo de archivos, legales o ilegales.

Wall Street Journal - High Court Sides With Studios in Grokster Case:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that Grokster can be sued if consumers use its file-sharing software to illegally swap songs and movies while also deciding in favor of cable companies seeking to deny rivals access to broadband lines. [...] The justices reviewed an August ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that file-sharing companies aren't liable for copyright infringement that takes place within their networks. Three appellate judges found that file-sharing software has some legal uses, and the file-sharing companies can't control whether consumers are using it for legal or illegal uses.

News Factor Network - Supreme Court Rules Against P2P Networks:

Monday's ruling gives the entertainment industry another legal option to the more costly and less popular route of going directly after millions of online file-swappers believed to distribute songs and movies illegally. It's unclear how much the decision will actually deter the widespread problem of piracy since software programs created abroad won't be subject to the tougher U.S. copyright laws. Still, analysts say the court's stern rebuke should provide a boost to many file-sharing services that offer legal downloading for a fee. Industry observers have said a ruling against Grokster could also prompt stiffer enforcement from European regulators, who were watching the case for guidance on tackling copyright questions in their countries. Recording companies in the United States have already sued thousands of individual users; at least 600 of the cases were eventually settled for roughly $3,000 each.

New York Times - Court Rules File-Sharing Networks Can Be Held Liable for Illegal Use (free registration required):

But there was widespread concern that the court, which provided little in the way of describing what might qualify as behavior aimed at encouraging infringement, has opened up the door to prohibitive legal battles that just might stifle future innovations.

“The court has now given as precedent to the whole world of digital technology companies a very difficult road to follow,” said Richard Taranto, the lawyer who argued the case on behalf of Grokster and StreamCast before the Supreme Court.

“The immediate impact for the future of our case is not clear,” he said, but the impact on future technologies “is a chilling one.”

The Register - Supremes protect P2P technology, then punt:

Following the decision, CDT Staff Counsel David Sohn explained, “We never felt that Grokster and StreamCast were innocent parties that should get a free pass, but there’s a principle at stake here that’s much larger than the peer-to-peer issue. Since 1984, the rule has been that developers of technologies that have legal uses aren’t liable when users misuse those technologies to infringe copyright.”

“This decision offers a framework for the courts to distinguish bad actors from those who merely distribute innovative technologies,” he added.

As for what comes next, it is possible that the case will end up back before the Supremes, if the ambiguity of their current definitions of inducement should leave the forthcoming district court decision open to appeal. And it is all but certain that the entertainment industry will be lobbying Congress ruthlessly to outlaw P2P software outright, since the Supremes have declined to do so. We can expect new life for the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (Induce Act), but certainly not before the mid-term elections.

If you want even more coverage of the case, have a look at Google News.