The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

Got a tip? Have something you need to tell us? Contact us

Loading Recent Classifieds...

Court ruling hits net piracy

The entertainment industry won another battle against Internet piracy following a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling June 27 making software companies liable when their users illegally download copyrighted material.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer took its case against Grokster and StreamCast, companies that offer free peer-to-peer network software, to the high court following a ruling that prohibited suing companies that control software that may be used to illegally transmit copyrighted material.

In the summary ruling, the high court cited the 1984 case of Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios Inc., in which it was decided that an entity could not be held liable for a commercial product capable of substantial non-infringing use.

As long as a commercial product is mainly used for means that do not infringe on copyrights, the company releasing the product could not be held accountable for the product’s illegal use.

According to a statistician commissioned by MGM, 90 percent of the content available for download on the FastTrack system, the software employed by Grokster, is copyrighted.

Noting this, the high court ruled that the lower court improperly applied the 1984 Sony case, seeing that 90 percent of downloadable material, being copyrighted, constitutes a substantial infringing use.

Grokster and StreamCast replied, stating that some copyrighted material was authorized for free copying by the copyright holders, according to court documents.

The court did not address the legality of peer-to-peer networks, which allow users to connect with each other without a third-party server for the purpose of sharing files.

Some members of the CSUN community believe this ruling is another in a string of attempts to curb Internet piracy, while others believe the ruling was justified.

According to Maureen Rubin, CSUN journalism professor and an expert in media law, first the companies tried to go after the servers, then after the individuals, then after the colleges, then finally after the networks.

“Never do they stop the act from happening,” she said. Rubin said she feels the ruling is merely an attack on the “easy target.” Technology has caused problems in the law that were never envisioned, Rubin said.

“Technology is outracing the law in a footrace, and the law is losing,” she said.

“What people need to do is just be honest,” said Brian Hilton, sophomore music major. “I don’t think there’s one (solution) for the masses. (The solution) should be more individual based, but society can’t really trust an individual. There’s a lack of honesty in the world.”

Hilton, who uses iTunes, a service provided by Apple that allows users to legally download copyrighted songs for 99 cents per song, acknowledges that companies such as Grokster and StreamCast need to take steps toward stopping piracy.

“The company knows what they’re doing,” Hilton said. “They know what’s going on.”

The Supreme Court focused on the way Grokster and StreamCast advertised their services. According to the summary ruling, both companies encouraged downloading of copyrighted material.

The case has been sent back to the lower courts to determine if Grokster and StreamCast did encourage copyright infringement.

More to Discover