Judge Agrees With RIAA; Says Illegal Activity On Morpheus Meant It Induced Infringement

from the not-that-surprising dept

While it’s often referred to as the “Grokster” case, the lawsuit actually involved a few different companies, including Streamcast, the maker of Morpheus. Last year, when the Supreme Court ruled in the case, they did not (contrary to what the entertainment industry will tell you) outlaw file sharing apps. All the court did was say that if the maker of the app could be shown to have induced the infringement, then a court could find them liable for copyright infringement. Then, it sent the case back to the lower court to review its original decision (which had said that the software makers were not liable for the actions of their users). While Grokster ended up “settling,” Streamcast was unable to reach a settlement and decided that it would go back to the lower court and make the case that they did not induce infringement.

It appears, however, that the judge didn’t buy it. He’s granted summary judgment to the record labels, saying that there’s “overwhelming” evidence of Streamcast’s intent. Given the market in the days when Morpheus was popular, it wouldn’t be surprising to find some evidence that could be construed as “inducing” infringement. However, from the quotes in the Associated Press article (and, perhaps there’s more in the actual ruling), it sounds like the judge felt that the evidence of “massive infringement” on the system was evidence of inducement. While the RIAA must love that, it’s very troublesome. Just because a tool is widely misused, that’s hardly evidence that the maker of the tool intended for it to be used illegally, or that it actively “induced” illegal behavior. And, even then, inducement should be a higher standard than just intent. There may very well be evidence that Streamcast induced illegal behavior, but the presence of illegal usage (even lots of it) using their tool is not the same as inducement. It will be interesting to see how Streamcast responds, but it seems likely that it will end up shutting down completely (though it has its other lawsuits to deal with as well). However, if judges start ruling that the presence of noticeable illegal activity is enough evidence to suggest inducement, that’s a dangerous view, and completely rolls back the Supreme Court’s Betamax decision that showed VCRs were legal if they had substantial non-infringing uses.

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Comments on “Judge Agrees With RIAA; Says Illegal Activity On Morpheus Meant It Induced Infringement”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Well shoot...

ummm, riiight. you’re brain is stuck… here let me get my screwdriver…

the analogy is perfect. if you claim that simply creating something that ends up being used illegally means the creator intended it to be used in such a manor than they are the same – scale of your perception of what is more or less “bad” has nothing to do with the underlying point.

Anonymous Coward says:

If that's the case

Cars are illegal because many people get in accidents or drink and drive

VCRs are illegal because many people use them to make copies of videos

CD-R/DVD-Rs are illegal for the same reasons

Don’t even get them started on computers

Shoes are illegal because people jaywalk while using them, or kick other people while wearing them

What a scary precedent. Since when did personal responsibility go out the window? Blame the people, not the tools. And let’s examine why people use these tools… DRM *cough*. Kind of makes me glad I am fighting overseas…

Charles K. says:

Re: Dogs are illegal

There are laws about that, actually. You’re supposed to pick it up, because it’s your duty to do so. Ignorance is bliss, eh?

To be fair about all of this, Morpheus did allow free download of copywritten media without the permission of the creator of said media, and that’s infringement. Morpheus wasn’t some holy good guy, just because you got something free out of it.

Some Guy says:

Re: Re: Dogs are illegal

“There are laws about that, actually. You’re supposed to pick it up, because it’s your duty to do so. Ignorance is bliss, eh?”

This is only true if the dog is owned by anyone….what about the ones that aren’t owned? And what about all the wild animals that leave presents everywhere? (I think that’s what he ment.)

But yes, if this ends up going through it will be a major set back to the development of new technologies.

YouKnowNothing says:

Re: Re: Dogs are illegal

To be fair about all of this, Morpheus did allow free download of copywritten media without the permission of the creator of said media, and that’s infringement.

Morpheus is a neutral communications tool (like the internet) that allows people to connect to a network of peers where they can share files with eachother. If some of those files happen to be copyrighted by someone who hasn’t given their express permission for them to be distributed on that network, then the people uploading those files are guitly of infringement, not Morpheus, not the people who made the software, and not the network.

FTP, HTTP, and TCP/IP also allow the free download of copyrighted media without the permission of the creator of said media, too.

Anonymous Coward says:

There goes the (network) neighborhood...

That is a very scary precedent to set. Massive amounts of illegal activity through a tool proves inducement of illegal activity by the tool’s makers. Sure you can give tons of examples of stuff you already have access to, but think about the stuff that wont be made in the future if that precedent is allowed to stand. No more consoles, no new PC hardware, etc.. All because they are used on a regular basis to perform illegal activity.

Paul` says:

Irc and more

IRC should be banned because of warez channels run using it, HTML should be banned for providing a way to display information that can be used for illegal activities along with all web authoring programs.
This is just stupid. P2P Software can be used for a host of perfectly legal things. Why punish the companies who creat the software for the illegal activities of the users which they have no control over?

Sam says:

Sounds a lot like gun control...

It seriously sounds like the reasoning behind banning guns. Which isn’t going to happen because gun companies use the reasoning that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people, guns are just a tool used”

If you ban guns you have to ban knives, forks, hachets, saws, needles, cottonswabs doused in arsnic, etc…

Funny how the same line of reasoning works over there but not over here.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Sounds a lot like gun control...

there is an important difference: there is a huge lobbying group protecting rights granted by the constitution’s second amendment, the NRA. there is no such amendment to the constitution regarding file sharing, but who cares really. the important thing is that there is a huge and well funded lobbying group that is able to defeat many gun control bills.

that’s why guns can’t be controlled, but file sharing damn sure can be. if there were an NFSA, this would be a completely different story.

Matthew says:

It's all the Govt's fault

They invented this Internet thing this is entrapment!

Well of course it isn’t the legal definition of entrapment, but the judge seems to think that it is. Company X creates program Y and the RIAA freaks out. Well “Company X created this program so, of course, the public is going to abuse it!!”, they say. But did company X tell the public “HEY COME GET YOUR FREE MUSIC!” ? No, I never got that memo.

So, it’s Hollywood’s fault then. It’s their movies, music, and diatribes that corece the public into misdeeds. They are the ones showing us how to subvert the system while they glorify gangster lifestyles, teach us how to rob banks, drive fast, have sex, and fight the power. All the while they sit back, count the money, get drunk/high, crash into things, have crazy parties, and whatnot. Right? No, I don’t suppose that really holds up either.

Though parents use that line of logic when their kids go off on some rampage and we all wonder why the parents can make such imbecilic claims. http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060926/110344.shtml

As has been mentioned, people speed on highways. Cars are safer, roads are wider, and people’s self-confidence — misplaced or not — provides a sense of security and a bit more pressure on the gas pedal. But the roads are a necessary service. So too is the Internet a service.

When roads are bad, people avoid them. When movies and music is bad, people avoid them. To equate abusers with loss of revenue makes as much as sense as blaming speeders for potholes. I can only pray that Limewire can convince, or out-bribe, the judge of what we see the RIAA is: a bully with fat pockets, a lot of smoke and mirrors, and snake oil.

Darstan says:

Problem is.

The question here is not weather file sharing software is legal or not. It is weather the software was desgined with the intent of enabling illegal acts.

I realize that the guys who wrote Morpheus and all the other file sharing software my claim they did not intend their software to be used in that fashion but what other reason would they have for creating it at the time they did.

Napster was created for the purpose of sharing music. And they paid for this. Other developers decided they could get around the same fate as Napster by allowing all sorts of content be downloaded. This make sense since they could just claim they made it to share un copyrighted content.

But the problem comes with none of the Filesharing programs have gone out of their way to try and prevent the use of their software for illegal purposes. And the reason their product would lose its user base if they could not download copyrighted material.

Had Morpheus and other companies like them taken measures to help prevent illegal use of their software the law might have taken it into consideration and they would probably not be in they spot they are in.

It is only a matter of time for Lime wire.

People are looking at this as an issue with the tool but it is not. It is a matter of negligence on part of the tools manufacturer. People sue for manufacturer negligence all the time. Streamcast was negligent they knew what their software would be used for and took no measures to prevent it.

Anonymous Coward says:

so, if some guy uses a craftsman monkey wrench to off a guy, is craftsman in trouble for inducing the attackere to do it? i mean, they made the tool heavy enough to deal damage, and ergonomic enough to fit in his hand? is that negligence on craftsman? how can we be sure that craftsman isn’t actually out there for mob hits and whatnot?

so moving along, it’s going to be difficult to PROVE that limewire/morpheus or whatever had the INTENT to provoke illegal activities. can doctors go into our minds and read our past thoought? what will have to happen is someone the creators talked to will say that creators explained they are making this software so people can download music, but are adding other file types to prevent suits. so, unless someone comes forward, i don’t see how you can prove the creators intended on defrauding the riaa

Scott says:

Here’s an interesting analogy that probably follows the Judge’s reasoning:

If someone comes into your unlocked house, finds the key to a lockbox, and takes your properly stored gun, then goes off to shoot someone, you would not be held responsible. However, if that person then comes back and does the same thing every day for a year with your full knowledge, then you are criminally negligent at best, and I bet you’d end up being charged with 2nd degree murder.

The morpheus client, like the hypothetical gun, was a tool fully under morpheus’ control. If they had wished to decrease illegal activity they certainly could have, but they made very little effort, and continued to sell advertising space which was paid for in no small part due to the popularity of illegal file sharing.

I am all for a world where file-sharing is open and free, but for morpheus to make the case that they were not responsible for any illegal activity on their site is pretty preposterous.

Frank says:

Re: Re:

Excellent analogy, Scott.

As for the rest of you lunatics, you know perfectly well that everyone involved at Morpheus (just like everyone at Napster, Limewire, etc.) was perfectly aware of how their product was being used. Yet they made no attempt to discourage or prevent copyright infringement. This is in clear contast to car manufacturers, gun manufacturers, and even fast food restaurants these days, who at least provide warnings and discouragement to the misure of their products.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is in clear contast to car manufacturers, gun manufacturers, and even fast food restaurants these days, who at least provide warnings and discouragement to the misure of their products.

Just the opposite. I’ve never bought a cheeseburger with a warning label on it. Or car (most will go way over the speed limit). But most P2P software does come with such labels. Going around telling such whoppers makes Frank sound like an astroturfing MPAA tool.

Gabriel Tane says:

Re: Re: Re:

As for the rest of you lunatics, you know perfectly well that everyone involved at Morpheus (just like everyone at Napster, Limewire, etc.) was perfectly aware of how their product was being used. Yet they made no attempt to discourage or prevent copyright infringement. This is in clear contast to car manufacturers, gun manufacturers, and even fast food restaurants these days, who at least provide warnings and discouragement to the misure of their products.”

The point isn’t “did they try to stop it”, the point is “did they have to try”… or, more accuratly, “how much did they have to have done to be considered to have tried”. And they actually have warnings about copyright infringement on the installation pages and startup screens. It’s all a question of where is the line drawn for “how much is enough”.

As far as being perfectly aware… and I’ll tie this in to the gun arguments…

The creator of the AK-47 created his weapon to protect his country. He wanted his people to have a superior weapon.

Now, his weapon is a mainstay of terrorists, third-world guerillas, and religious extremists all around the world (due to it’s reliability, availability, and low cost).

The creator of this gun was perfectly aware that others could get a hold of his gun, and he was perfectly aware that it can be used for more than national defense. That doesn’t mean that he is responsible for the atrocities done with his weapon.

Anonymous Coward says:

ok scott, how about this one. you produce a product that can be used to destroy property, commit crimes and kill people. this has gone on for about 80 years, and you have still not implemented a way to prevent this from happening. by your logic, car companies should be tried for not fixing their problem.

and how would morpheus decrese illegal activity? disallow any and all .mp3 files? or whould they chedk for drm’d files? well, if they did either of those, their product would suffer. so they should disallow any file with the name of copyrighted material? or should their program browse the file to make sure they aren’t illegal?

well, if i have a file called metallica-song.mp3, it could be metallica, or somehting completely different. so buy intruding on their customers, they would lose them. and if they don’t have customers, they are out of business. yes companies must do something, but they can’t protect against all illegal activities. it’s just not possible.

Scheffy says:

Let's quit dancing around the point here

I think we all know what the real root of the problem is here, so I’ll be the first to come out and say it. Whether it’s writing programs to share copyrighted material, killing other people, driving a car too fast, or singing Celine Dion songs in public, what’s the common denominator in all these atrocious activities? It’s not the computers or guns or cars or karaoke machines – it’s people.
So what can we do? We have to outlaw people! And since this is America and we can’t discriminate, we can’t just outlaw stupid people, we have to outlaw every single person.
There. I said it, and I know you all were thinking it. Being a human has to be outlawed because some humans do bad things. Happy now? I’m gonna go turn myself in right now.

theMouse says:

To me

If someone intended to write something that allowed email. I am sure that there is a way to prove it. I think the fact was used to break the law doesn’t make it their intention. Seems a little circumstancial to me

I mean how hard would it be subpoena the email, hardware etc.?

If it was their intention to do it I’m sure it’s mentioned somewhere In a memo.

I wish being intelligent and capable of CORRECT and LOGICAL thinking was a requirement for being a judge.

Serenity Marovingian says:

Nice Job, I love the legal system

Well, if that software is on the bill for intent now, what the hell will happen when they realize the idea behind White-Hat software like Cain & Abel, Black Widow and so on….

This is going to be an ugly world soon: To hell with RIAA they are a bunch of money grubing no talent business men who don’t actually know how to make money aside from stealing it from the wrong people.

That, and here goes creative license with software applications.

Lay Person says:

Sheer speculation

This is sheer speculation on our part.

We know nothing of this case nor what the overwhelming proof is.

If the judge determines that Morpheus induced illegal activity then that is just what it is.

To sit here and state otherwise is a waste of time.

If this is troubling, then yeah it is disturbing but only for the fact that the RIAA has another one-up on us.

Lay Person says:

Poor, blind, Americans...

Once upon a time there was a civilization ruled by law and honour. The law worked because its institutions were authorative, and through general concensus they were recognised as such. They were honoured. Then one day the rulers of this great civilisation, so sure of their power, respect and the absolute faith the people had in their institutions laid back on their laurels and decided that for a little temporary wealth they could auction off that trust.

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