Supreme Court Will Review Ninth Circuit's Grokster Decision
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it granted certiorari in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster, Ltd., 380 F.3d 1154 (9th Cir. 2004) (“Grokster II”) (Update, August 24, 2004), and will review the Ninth Circuit’s August 2004 decision affirming the federal district court ruling in 259 F. Supp. 2d 1029 (C.D. Cal. 2003) (“Grokster I”) (Update, April 30, 2003). In Grokster II, the Ninth Circuit held that peer-to-peer (“P2P”) software providers Grokster and StreamCast (provider of Morpheus P2P software) were not secondarily liable for copyright infringement when an individual directly infringes copyright by using defendants’ P2P software to improperly share or download copyrighted material, such as MP3 music files, over the Internet.
The motion picture studios, record companies, music publishers and songwriters petitioned the Supreme Court in October 2004 to review the decision in Grokster II. The content industry asserted that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling was contrary to long standing principles of secondary copyright liability and that the result of the decision was to immunize Grokster and Morpheus “from copyright liability for the millions of daily acts of copyright infringement that occur on their services and that constitute at least 90% of the total use of the services.”
It is not clear whether the Supreme Court will reevaluate its ruling in Sony Corp. of America, Inc. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984) (“Betamax”) that was the basis in Grokster and other decisions finding that technology providers were not contributorily liable if their products have substantial noninfringing uses. Given the significant impact that a ruling from the Supreme Court could have on consumers and businesses developing digital content technologies, it is not surprising that dozens of amicus curie briefs were filed in support of and in opposition to the petition for certiorari and more are sure to be filed before the case is argued. Briefs in the case will be due early next year, with argument likely in March 2005.
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