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Judge: File-Swapping Tools Are Legal

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posted on Apr, 25 2003 @ 03:05 PM
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Judge: File-Swapping Tools Are Legal


By John Borland
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
April 25, 2003, 12:46 PM PT

update A federal judge in Los Angeles has handed a stunning court victory to file-swapping services Streamcast Networks and Grokster, dismissing much of the record industry and movie studios' lawsuit against the two companies.
In an almost complete reversal of previous victories for the record labels and movie studios, federal court Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that Streamcast--parent of the Morpheus software--and Grokster were not liable for copyright infringements that took place using their software. The ruling does not directly affect Kazaa, software distributed by Sharman Networks, which has also been targeted by the entertainment industry.

"Defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends," Wilson wrote in his opinion, released Friday. "Grokster and StreamCast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights."

While the ruling in no way validates the legality of downloading copyrighted music online, it would shield companies providing decentralized file-swapping software such as Gnutella from liability for the actions of people using their products.

As such, it could potentially provide new leverage for file-swapping companies such as Grokster, Streamcast and Sharman in negotiations with record companies and other copyright holders to license works legitimately. Since Napster's $1 billion settlement offer with the record industry in 2001, file-swapping companies have repeatedly sought an amicable settlement with copyright holders but have been almost universally rebuffed.




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