Judicial Restraint Urged at High Court

Washington, DC - Peer-to-peer (P2P) software companies StreamCast Networks and Grokster Ltd. today filed a joint brief urging the US Supreme Court to leave undisturbed the landmark MGM v. Grokster ruling handed down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.

The case pits the world's largest music and movie studio companies against StreamCast and Grokster, two small start-up companies responsible for the Morpheus and Grokster P2P file-sharing software products. The entertainment companies have been seeking to hold StreamCast and Grokster liable for copyright infringements committed by the users of their software. In April 2003, a federal district court in Los Angeles rejected that claim, reasoning that the Morpheus and Grokster software products had many noninfringing uses, much like photocopiers and VCRs. That ruling was upheld by a unanimous 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2004. But in October, the entertainment industry asked the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court rulings.

StreamCast and Grokster filed their brief in response today, emphasizing several reasons the Supreme Court should not take this case. They argue that the Ninth Circuit correctly applied the clear rule set out by the Supreme Court 20 years ago in the Sony v. Universal case (also known as the "Sony Betamax" case) that protects technologies with noninfringing uses. The Ninth Circuit ruling is also consistent with other federal rulings in P2P cases, including the 2003 Aimster ruling, since the Aimster defendants had not shown noninfringing uses. Finally, if copyright laws need to be adjusted in light of new P2P technologies, that is a job best left for Congress, rather than the courts.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Charles Baker of the Houston law firm Porter &amp Hedges represent StreamCast Networks (Morpheus) in the case, joined by StreamCast's General Counsel, Matthew A. Neco, on the opposition brief, while the San Francisco law firm Keker &amp Van Nest represents Grokster Ltd.

"The Ninth Circuit got it right and applied the Supreme Court's own precedent in the Sony Betamax case," said senior EFF staff attorney, Fred von Lohmann. "There is no reason to revisit the unanimous ruling of the Ninth Circuit and insert judges into the design rooms of technologists across the nation."

The case is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer v. Grokster, Supreme Court Docket No. 04-480. The Court is expected to decide whether it will take the case before the end of the year.


Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Related Issues