Supreme Court Delivers Defeat to Grokster

In a stunning legal ruling that's sure to affect the development of new technology for years to come, the US Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that developers of software that helps users violate federal copyright law can be held responsible for such violations when the developers make "affirmative steps to foster infringement." The vaguely worded ruling is a big victory for record labels and movie studios but will surely make many companies wary about developing new technology. In its decision, the court stated, "We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties." Grokster argued that its peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing service gave users an easy and legitimate way to exchange content and tried to argue that the company didn't intend for its users to share copyrighted material, even though it's no secret that stealing copyrighted material is the primary reason people use P2P networks. This ruling is too important and far-reaching to go away quietly, so don't be surprised to see the US Congress and courts get more involved in this topic in the future.

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