IEEE-USA seeks to prevent copyright infringement, preserve technological innovation in file sharing

01/24/05

Amicus brief filed in US Supreme Court today

WASHINGTON (24 January 2005) -- In a friend-of-the-court filing today with the U.S. Supreme Court, IEEE-USA proposed an approach to prevent copyright infringement while preserving technological innovation.

"A careful balance must be struck between copyright incentives for authors to create works of authorship and the right of the public to benefit from technical means to reproduce and distribute those works," IEEE-USA Intellectual Property Committee Vice Chair Andrew Greenberg said.

According to IEEE-USA's brief, a provider of dual-use technology (capable of both infringing and non-infringing use, such as a VCR or a file-sharing system) should not be liable for the infringements of users unless the provider has actively induced the user to infringe.

"File-sharing technology serves as the basis for the Internet and should be unrestricted to produce future revolutionary digital products," Greenberg said. "On the other hand, copyright owners must not be left to the mercy of those who set out to knowingly and intentionally induce third parties to infringe."

The case in question, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster," involves a lawsuit brought by entertainment companies against Grokster and StreamCast Networks, two companies that offer peer-to-peer file-sharing software. The suit claimed that operators of file-sharing systems should be held responsible when their users copy music, movies and other protected works without permission.

At issue is whether and when restrictions can be placed on file-sharing technologies with both non-infringing and infringing uses.

In August 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that peer-to-peer networks are not liable for copyright infringement because, like the VCRs in the 21-year-old Sony Betamax Supreme Court ruling, they can be used for legitimate "non-infringing" purposes.

On 12 December 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to consider this case. Oral arguments will be on 29 March, with a decision expected this spring.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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