We just mentioned the psychological front of the War on File-Swapping, where the RIAA is set to aggressively confront university swappers, and the technological front, which is self-explanatory. The legal front sees a major confrontation today as well, with the studios and labels confronting Morpheus and Grokster in an LA federal court. Both sides have asked for a summary judgment, as John Borland explains:
If the judge grants none of Monday’s motions for “summary judgment” and the case does go to trial, it will be the first time that any of the peer-to-peer companies have progressed that far in the legal proceedings. In the case of Napster and Madster–formerly known as Aimster–a judge granted preliminary injunctions ordering the companies to block copyrighted music trades, and the companies each fell into bankruptcy before a full trial could be held. Madster is still fighting its injunction, while Napster has sold its assets in a bankruptcy auction.
“It’s a very critical” part of the case, said Charles Baker, a Brobeck Phleger & Harrison attorney representing Streamcast Networks, which distributes the Morpheus file-swapping software. “Either somebody will win and somebody will lose, or both sides will lose and we’ll have a trial.”
Any outcome will help shape the future of the file-trading world. The copyright holders’ case against Streamcast, Grokster and the successive parent companies of the Kazaa software is widely viewed as potentially even more influential than the suit against the now-defunct Napster, and a full trial could be an important legal milestone for the technology community.
All three services distribute file-swapping software without maintaining the same kind of centralized directory server that Napster, Madster and other previous legal targets had. Connections between people for the purpose of trading songs, movies, software or anything else are made without the intervention of the companies themselves. Supporters say that gives them a better shot at proving they are simply software distributors and are not liable for the copyright infringement of the people who use the software.
The copyright holders say that the technical differences between Napster and these newer, more decentralized software programs are irrelevant. All of the services are aware of the copyright infringement and have built their businesses around its existence and should therefore be held responsible, the plaintiffs say.