At the oral arguments in MGM v. Grokster before the Supreme Court today, it was hard to tell which side a majority of the justices fell on. But one thing was clear: they were asking the right questions.
Over and over, the justices hammered the lawyer for the RIAA and MPAA with questions about the potential impact of a ruling in their favor against small inventors -- the "guy in the garage" as Justice David Souter put it. Justice Stephen Breyer also grilled MGM's attorney about whether lawyers who advise technologists -- for example, the inventor of the next iPod -- could give any assurance at all to their clients under MGM's rule that he would not be sued at some point down the road for copyright infringement.
Justice Scalia was also skeptical of the plaintiffs' arguments, questioning whether their proposed "primary use" test made any sense, given that the balance of lawful versus unlawful uses of technology are constantly changing.
What the justices will ultimately think and decide won't be known until later this summer, but we're encouraged to hear that they understand what's at stake. Let's just hope they take it to heart.