RealTime IT News

As Grokster Decision Nears, Hollywood Talks Tough

WASHINGTON -- As the Supreme Court nears a decision in the Grokster case, Hollywood continued its tough talk against peer-to-peer (P2P) networks dealing in copyrighted materials.

"I'm optimistic that this is going to turn out well for us, but if it doesn't then we have a whole host of other strategies to protect out interests," Dan Glickman, president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), told a think tank gathering Tuesday.

Hollywood hopes to overturn two lower court decisions clearing P2P companies for the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. The P2Ps contend their technology is neutral and should be covered by the Supreme Court's 1984 Sony Betamax decision.

In March, the Supreme Court heard final arguments in MGM v. Grokster, which makes the P2P technology.

In that case, the court decided the use of new technology that could infringe copyrights did not justify an outright ban on that technology, as long as it provides other, non-infringing uses. A decision in the case is expected this month.

"This case presents an important economic and political question: shall we keep in place legal protections that promote the free market or shall we tear down those protections in such a way to allow the black market to prosper and dominate?" Glickman told the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

Glickman said he is optimistic the Supreme Court will rule in the entertainment industry's favor. But if it doesn't, Hollywood is prepared to protect its interests.

"Regardless of what the court does, we're going to continue to pursue our various strategies to deal with piracy and intellectual property rights protection. That means legislation if necessary," he said. "We also will pursue our litigation strategies, education strategies and our technology strategies, no matter what."

Glickman also praised the entertainment industry for embracing digital media technology.

"We have already entered a new era of digital communications for music services like iTunes and nascent [download] movie sites like Movielink and Cinemanow," he said. "These are just a hint at the opportunities to come. These types of legitimate services will continue to develop and improve but only if only strong intellectual property protection is preserved."

According to Glickman, these emerging services are directly challenged by the P2Ps.

"Threatening the development of these type of services is the prevalence of companies that glean their profits by offering a platform for people to obtain music, movies, software and games for free," Glickman said. "Unfazed by the rule of law or respect for the property rights of others, these companies exploit content and facilitate infringement on a massive global scale."

Hollywood won its initial foray against the file-sharing companies when it shut down file-swapping provider Napster, but has consistently lost in the courts since then. In Napster's case, an index of material available for file-swapping was maintained on a central server. Grokster does not use central servers. In that situation, the courts have consistently ruled, Grokster has no control over the actions of its customers.

"Developing viable delivery systems that provide consumers with the high quality content they desire while at the same time protecting that high quality content from theft and misuse is absolutely critical to the survival of this business," Glickman said. "It is also essential that a marketplace develops with respect and favors legitimate delivery systems and legitimate business models and sanctions those who build business models based on the hard work of others."