Supreme Court hears P2P liability arguments


— 1:27 PM on March 29, 2005

The US Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether entertainment companies should be able to sue peer-to-peer software companies.

During a lively argument, justices wondered aloud whether such lawsuits might have discouraged past inventions like copy machines, videocassette recorders and iPod portable music players - all of which can be used to make illegal duplications of copyrighted documents, movies and songs.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the same software that can be used to steal copyrighted materials offered at least conceptually "some really excellent uses" that are legal.

However, the court seems to have little sympathy for peer-to-peer software companies' business models.
"What you are suggesting is unlawful expropriation of property as a kind of start-up capital," said Justice Anthony Kennedy. "From an economic standpoint and legal standpoint, that sounds wrong."
The recording industry is treading carefully, asking that companies whose businesses are "predominantly supported by piracy" be held liable for copyright infringement.
 
   
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