The Null Device

Could be worse, could be (a lot) better

The EFF's take on the US supreme court's unanimous decision in favour of Big Copyright against Grokster. Executive summary: it's not as bad as it could have been (the court didn't strike down the Betamax doctrine or explicitly oblige designers of technologies to take steps to prevent copyright infringement), though it does open up a legal minefield, allowing Big Copyright to sue anyone who makes anything that handles intellectual property if they can argue that their business model depends on inducement. (Presumably they could sue Apple for selling iPods if that they can show that Apple's iPod business model depends on people ripping CDs or downloading MP3s.) The RIAA and MPAA will undoubtedly be making hay of this, launching salvos of lawsuits to make examples of technology makers, and possibly positioning themselves as a regulatory agency for any technology involving copyrighted materials. The EU and Australia will, of course, follow in lockstep in their reading of intellectual-property law, so the chilling effect will go beyond the US. In a few years' time, the hottest and most usable gadgets may be smuggled in from Brazil, India or China (assuming one can get them through customs).

Meanwhile, commentators on SCOTUSblog say that this is at best a hollow victory for Big Copyright and quite possibly a huge loss, as they didn't get the blunt instrument they wanted. And this Salon piece suggests that the decision may open the door to Google being sued for copyright infringement.

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