The Grokster Ruling

June 28th, 2005 6:46 PM
When I heard last night that the Supreme Court had made a ruling in favor of MGM in the Grokster case, I was pretty upset. This is clearly an issue of a technology that has enormous potential for legal uses, and is therefore covered by the 1984 Sony decision, I thought. As it turns out, that’s what the court of appeals thought, too, and it’s rather irrelevant in this case. After reading the METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS INC. et al. v. GROKSTER, LTD., et al. summary, however, I must concede that MGM had a good case, and Grokster and StreamCast really dropped the ball on this one. The court affirmed the intention of the Sony case, but noted that Sony doesn’t protect Grokster or StreamCast here due to evidence showing that the companies was aware of and often encouraged infringement.

We agree with MGM that the Court of Appeals misapplied Sony, which it read as limiting secondary liability quite beyond the circumstances to which the case applied. Sony barred secondary liability based on presuming or imputing intent to cause infringement solely from the design or distribution of a product capable of substantial lawful use, which the distributor knows is in fact used for infringement.

This view of Sony, however, was error, converting the case from one about liability resting on imputed intent to one about liability on any theory.

So there you have it. The ruling is worth a read, but in general, I’m much more comfortable with the outcome now that I know more about it as opposed to the not-surprising “Hollywood beats the pirates!” FUD that CNN Headline News was airing yesterday.