Industry Experts Discuss the MGM v. Grokster Case

Fourth House IP Caucus Roundtable presents a lively informative copyright debate to Members of Congress

Washington, DC On March 10, 2005, IIPI hosted a congressional roundtable discussion to publicize the first intellectual property focused Supreme Court case in twenty years, the MGM v. Grokster case. This is the first copyright focused Supreme Court case since the Sony v. Betamax case. The Sony v. Betamax case ruled that VCR manufacturers are not liable for the copyright infringement committed by those using their products and that VCRs can continue to be sold because they have significant non-infringing uses. The roundtable informed Members of Congress and Congressional staff about the potential impact of the MGM v. Grokster Supreme Court ruling. Panelists outlined the industry consequences of the decision on whether companies that own file-sharing websites on which the vast majority of shared files are infringing, such as Grokster and Streamcast, and whose networks generate advertising revenue, should be held liable for secondary copyright infringement.

The motion picture studios, record companies and music publishers argue that these services are liable for those copyright infringements based on their history of encouraging and assisting the massive illegal downloading and uploading by the users of their services of copyrighted motion pictures, television programs and music; and, as the services are used overwhelmingly for infringement, they cannot escape liability for those infringements. Public Knowledge and some electronics companies argue that this case raises a question of critical importance at the border between copyright and innovation: when should the distributor of a multi-purpose tool be held liable for the infringements that may be committed by end-users of the tool? They argue that Grokster and Streamcast have significant non-infringing uses and therefore should not be held liable for the copyright infringing use of their products.

The luncheon event entitled, MGM v. Grokster: A Critical Case for Digital Media in the 21st Century brought together representatives from all sides of this argument to discuss their views and answer the questions of Members and staff. Over fifty congressional staff and several Members of Congress attended this informative lunch discussion. Panelists at the roundtable included David Green, Vice President & Counsel, Technology and New Media, Motion Picture Association of America, Mitch Glazier, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Recording Industry Association of America, Emery Simon, Counselor, Business Software Alliance and Michael Godwin, Senior Technology Counsel, Public Knowledge and the event was moderated by Susan Mann, Federal Government Affairs Manager, Microsoft and member of the Board of Advisors to the International Intellectual Property Institute.

Photo © Marcela Barsse 2007

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