Friday night topic: File-sharing tools ruled legal

— 5:00 PM on April 25, 2003

In a stunning fit of practical judicial insight, a judge has ruled that P2P file-sharing tools Streamcast and Grokster are quite legal. The judge wrote:

"Defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends," Wilson wrote in his opinion, released Friday. "Grokster and StreamCast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights."
Thus, the companies that make these programs won't be held liable for what users do with them. Imagine that.

It's almost as if FTP and IRC weren't illegal. :)

If this kind of good sense survives the appeals process, record companies may have to start going after John Q. Public. But will they really come knocking on the doors of masses of individual users—and potential customers—in the U.S.? ("Mommy, why did the Dixie Chicks send daddy to jail?") Could it be that fair-use principles, common sense, and a love of freedom might actually force record companies into accepting a smaller cut of the action as they play a reduced role in music distribution?


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