Some of our readers might have heard about the landmark Supreme Court decision regarding Grokster and the legality of P2P software. As someone deeply concerned about P2P issues I wanted to point you guys in the direction of some enlightened commentary on the subject from kuro5shin:
To quote the ruling itself on inducement:
The rule on inducement of infringement as developed in the early cases is no different today. Evidence of “active steps … taken to encourage direct infringement,” such as advertising an infringing use or instructing how to engage in an infringing use, show an affirmative intent that the product be used to infringe, and a showing that infringement was encouraged overcomes the law’s reluctance to find liability when a defendant merely sells a commercial product suitable for some lawful use.
What this means is that simply making a product that can be used for infringement is not illegal. Even if the overwhelming majority of the people are using the product for infringement it is still not illegal. Grokster, the company, is only in the wrong because it marketed its product as being a tool specifically for infringement. Take note of how I say the company as opposed to the product. The Supreme Court of the United States has just ruled that P2P software is legal. Grokster — the product — is legal, but Grokster, the company, may be sued. I don’t see how one could reasonably want a better decision than that.
Read the rest and learn. Most reporting on the issue, like the above Post article, says the decision means that any P2P service can be sued successfully if it is used for infringement. Kuro5hin disagrees, claiming that the decision merely faulted Grokster because they specifically marketed their product’s infringing abilities. If he’s right (and it looks like he is) then things like BitTorrent would seem to have a much better case — and a more substantial reason to exist in terms of non-infringing uses.