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.