Monday, March 28, 2005

Tux Goes to Court: How the Grokster Case will Affect Software Libre

"This week will see oral arguments in the US Supreme Court in the case of MGM versus Grokster, a case of titanic dimensions for the rip, mix and burn culture. At issue in the case is whether a product manufacturer can be held liable for copyright infringements by downstream users....

What is the Grokster case about, and why should Penguinistas care? ...

CC: The Grokster case is about whether innovation is going to survive in the way that we are used to it. We're used to a world in which you have a good idea, you just build it. You don't have to ask for permission, and you especially don't have to ask for permission from Hollywood, even if what you are building might allow someone to do something illegal, like infringe copyrights. You are not responsible for what your customers do with your technology, as long as you don't actively participate in it. Simply building a piece of technology doesn't make you liable.

That freedom has created a space for a tremendous explosion of technology, toys, tools and fun stuff that we all use, including the Linux and open source stuff. This freedom is all based on a 1984 decision called “Betamax.” The entertainment companies tried to sue to make the VCR illegal when the VCR was first introduced. The Supreme Court announced a rule that said you can't ban a technology that has both infringing and non-infringing uses. As long as a technology is capable of both infringing and non-infringing uses, those are the legal buzz words, it can't be banned."


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