High court decision in MGM vs. Grokster file-sharing case imminent

June 23, 2005

WASHINGTON (24 June 2005) -- A much-anticipated Supreme Court decision in the *MGM vs. Grokster* file-sharing case is expected on Monday, 27 June. The case will affect the public's access to the Internet and the development of future technologies, as well as determine how Americans receive their entertainment, according to IEEE-USA experts interviewed in a TODAY'S ENGINEER Online *Extra* published this afternoon. IEEE-USA Intellectual Property Committee Chair Andy Greenberg and IEEE-USA President-Elect Ralph Wyndrum responded to questions about the facts of the case, the rationale for IEEE-USA to file an amicus brief, the potential public impact of the decision, as well as what effect different rulings could have on the entertainment and software industries.

TODAYS' ENGINEER notes that "the case hinges on a lawsuit brought by entertainment companies against Grokster and StreamCast Networks, two companies that offer peer-to-peer file-sharing software. The suit claimed that operators of file-shairng systems should be held responsible when their users copy music, movies and other protected works without permission." IEEE-USA contends that "providers of technologies capable of both good and ill -- such as a VCR or a file-sharing system -- should not be liable for the copyright infringements of users unless the provider has actively encouraged its users to infringe."

IEEE-USA's Andy Greenberg, who is a lawyer, engineer and game designer, frames the issue: "The technology on the Internet is one big copy machine; realistically, that's what we have. On the other hand, who would ever suggest that the Internet should have been foreshortened, stopped or stalled because it could be used to infringe?" Greenberg concluded: "We can't allow restrictions on technology to suit a few interests; we also have to protect the content owners against intentional and active exploitation of that content as seed capital for a new venture."

Looking ahead at whatever rule the Court might adopt on 27 June, Greenberg projected: "A rule that's too rigid, that allows companies to exploit a tendency to take things for free, would be a problem for the public as a whole." Alternatively, he said: "A rule too loose, one that allows the studios to sue and control -- or a threat of control, would stifle working technology."
-end-
The full transcript of the interview, conducted by IEEE-USA Senior PR Coordinator Chris McManes, can be found on the TODAY'S ENGINEER Online website at http://www.todaysengineer.org/2005/Jul/grokster.asp. An audio transcript will be added to the site.

For a backgrounder on the file-sharing case, check out "Grokster and You," in the April 2005 edition of TODAY'S ENGINEER, at www.todaysengineer.org/2005/Apr/grokster.asp.

To subscribe to TODAY'S ENGINEER, go to http://www.todaysengineer.org/emailupdates/index.html.

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the IEEE. It was created in 1973 to advance the public good and promote the careers and public-policy interests of the more than 220,000 technology professionals who are U.S. members of the IEEE. The IEEE is the world's largest technical professional society. For more information, go to www.ieeeusa.org.

IEEE-USA

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