Monday, May 08, 2006

Everybody wants a bite

A several-decade-long dispute may be over between the Beatles' Apple Records company and that OTHER ubiquitous Apple company (you know, the one selling those cute white mp3 players in every crevice of the universe) . Fights between the companies had reached a truce in 1991, when they each agreed not to infringe upon each others' business territories. Apple Computers, however, allegedly broke that agreement via its iTunes service. However, the British Judge Edward Mann ruled for Jobs, saying the logos weren't similar enough to be confusing to end users. Score one for the iUniverse.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

RIAA claims ripping isn't "fair use"

As a matter of law, every purchaser of a copyrighted work has the right to enjoy that work for all fair use. In the case of music, this includes acts such as private home exhibition. And, as many have assumed, it also includes making copies on portable media devices, such as the iPod.

However, the RIAA seems to be saying that copies on your iPod are illegal, or at best permissive by the RIAA themselves. Kooky? I think so too.

Settled, but far from over

It's been quite a while since I posted anything on this blog. That was, in large part, due to the escalating demands of law school as last semester drew to a close. Then, with the race for employment this semester, No Sharing remained shelved while I sorted everything out. But I'm back, and am pleased to announce that Grokster has continued to make waves in the industry and the law. Before any substantive posts, a brief update on the posture:

On November 7, 2005, the parties submitted a settlement agreement to the court, which was accepted. According to Video Business Online, Grokster's website displayed a message saying "the United States Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that using this service to trade copyrighted material is illegal. ... There are legal services for downloading music and movies. This service is not one of them."

Now, that last line isn't true with respect to freely shared works. Grokster's display of that message can only be attributed to the fact that Grokster was purchased by Sony, who likely aimed to bolster their own legal download sites. More to come, after I finish my open research memo assignment.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Notes from the Grokster panel

The panel last Friday was a great success. Each professor from UA and ASU had a unique perspective based on their are of expertise.

The panel opened with moderator Robert Clinton noting the law and technology evolve at different paces; specifically, the legislature moves too slowly to keep up with the fast pace of technology. In the absence of on-point legislation, he said, decisions of how the law applies to new technology becomes, by default, decisions for courts to make.

Prof. Dennis Karjala (ASU) took over and gave a brief overview of the Grokster case, and contrasted it with Monotype v. Bitstream, which was decided partly under the Betamax rule.

Making a detailed economic analysis, Prof. Barak Orbach (UA) discussed platforms, and how under the platform-disturbing categories of 'good piggybackers,' 'bad piggybackers,' and 'cost externalizers,' Grokster likely falls into one of the latter two categories, and should be hit with sanctions. Good piggybackers are entities whose use of a platform enhances exposure to the industries connected by the platform, and therefore are helpful. An example would be third-party accessories vendors. Bad piggybackers and cost externalizers, on the other hand, take business away from the businesses connected by a platform, and sell them to other advertisers. This is how Grokster operated, and therefore needs to be regulated.

Prof. Graeme Austin (UA) made an analysis of the international effects of internet legislation in general. Of great import, he stressed, are the effects that a very international medium like the internet has in a world where international law is lacking. Where full faith and credit to international decisions is due is a confusing procedural question. Even more confusing is what law will apply to an entity based on what jurisdiction adjudicates its disputes! He mentioned the Kazaa injunction, described in a previous post here.

Brad Biddle, in-house counsel for Intel Corp, elaborated on the perspective of the industry. Intel filed an amicus brief for Grokster, in support of the defense. One thing for which they are concerned, he said, is whether they could, under Grokster, be held liable for vicarious copyright infringement, since their microprocessors are the tools used in millions of machines to do the infringing itself. If a plaintiff could show that Intel "actively induced" such infringement, they could potentially be liable. He noted that Grokster's immediate effects will be felt in the advertising industry, where slogans such as the popular "Rip. Mix. Burn" will be buried in favor of more Grok-neutral language.

Finally, ASU's Prof. Eric Menkhus briefly closed, saying one lesson Grokster teaches that there is an important nexus between law, technology, and business. Grokster was ultimately decided on the basis of the company's business model, which targeted infringing users. They followed the letter of the Betamax rule perfectly, but that wasn't enough. Their attempt to capture an illegal market made them guilty of vicarious infringement, and that's what Grokster is all about. Imagine, he suggested, that the Grokster software had started life as a means by which local independent artists could freely share their music. If it had then reached the same size it had at the time Grokster was decided, the court would likely have decided differently, since the business model would have been legitimate, and no "active inducement" done.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Grokster panel in Phoenix

The University of Arizona (UA) and Arizona State University (ASU) Intellectual Property Student Associations will jointly present a panel on the Grokster decision on Friday, Oct 21, from 3:40-5:15pm, in the Great Hall at ASU's College of Law.

Panelists include:
Dennis Karjala - Professor of Law (ASU)
Graeme Austin - Professor of Law (UA)
Barak Orback - Associate Professor of Law (UA)
Brad Biddle, Esq. - Sr. Attorney, Intel Corp.

Refreshments following the panel. All in the area are welcome to attend. For more information, please e-mail Yakov Sidorin, IPSA president for UA.

The RIAA throws its weight around

Well, who ever said Grokster wouldn't be a big thing? The events of the past two weeks would be enough for them to eat their words pretty quickly.

The RIAA was the center of attention in recent news. First, the Association issued Cease-and-Decist letters to seven undisclosed p2p filesharing networks. Two of them, WinMX and eDonkey, buckled under the pressure, and closed their doors.

But that victory wasn't nearly enough to satisfy the zealous, Grokster-charged RIAA. In a slew of suits which rivals the massive pirate hunt of 2003, the RIAA has filed suits against 757 college students. The record industry is on the warpath.

And they've got support in Washington. Last session's proposed antipiracy bill is cropping up again, though it seems at this point as though Congress may just let the courts shuffle around with the issue for a bit longer before stepping in with any legislation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Grokster acquired by Sony

Grokster (the company, not the court decision) has been acquired by Sony, inc. and will be rereleased under the name Mashboxx, a legitimate, "label-friendly" p2p service. Apparently, the service will continue to allow general file sharing, and will also have an iTunes-like storefront. It is interesting to see how, if general sharing is allowed, the new service will prevent infringing shares. It certainly seems like illegal p2p is on the decline.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Belated Update

Well, as my first year of law school continues, I'm finding myself unable to update this blog with the regularity I had anticipated. That being said, no one reads it anyway, so I suppose that doesn't matter.

Grok news has, believe it or not, continued in my absence. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has been using the Grokster decision as a basis for sending C&D (Cease and Decist) letters to various p2p client distributors. ZDNet has more.

Monday, September 05, 2005

In the theme of this blog ...

Being that this blog is meant to outline the Grokster case (not simply general legal news), and because the title of this blog embraces a general ban on sharing, I will NOT tell you that John Roberts, Supreme Court Justice nominee, has had his appointment upgraded to that of Chief Justice in the wake of Rehnquist's death.

Rehnquist dies, KaZaA under fire

Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist died Saturday evening, overtaken by thyroid cancer. The justice made important marks on the legal community during his 33-year tenure, not the least of which involved the case from which this blog was spawned. Grokster was, in fact, the last decision of which Renquist was a part.

In other Grok news, p2p program KaZaA has been ordered by an Australian court to alter its program to ward off illegal file sharing activity. ZDnet states that the modification, or even downfall of the KaZaA system will not prevent illegal file shares due to the decentralized nature of the system.