Following the decision in last year's Grokster Supreme Court case, the entertainment industry started pretending the decision said something it didn't. The actual decision said that companies could be liable for copyright infringement if they somehow actively induced people to violate copyright law. The entertainment industry, however, just pretended that the courts completely outlawed file sharing systems -- and quickly sent threatening letters to a bunch of them. It looks like another one has caved in. BearShare has agreed to shut down and pay the industry $30 million -- which seems like a ridiculously high sum. This is made even more evident by the idea that BearShare could actually have a legitimate response to any lawsuit brought against them. For example, we've already pointed out that TorrentSpy is fighting back, and pointing out that (despite the entertainment industry's assertion) simply running a file sharing network is not illegal. As long as the company behind it didn't actively promote the illegal uses of the software, they're probably perfectly fine (though, the next court case will obviously determine that). It's understandable that the folks at BearShare didn't want to go through the hassle of a lawsuit, but it's unfortunate that they simply shut down and paid up -- as it gives the entertainment industry more fodder to go out and bully others. There's no doubt that BearShare was used for illegal purposes -- but the question is who is responsible for that use: the actual users or the software providers. It's worrying (though completely predictable) that the entertainment industry is succeeding in making people believe that the software developer is now responsible for anyone who misuses a software product.
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