28 Jun 2005, 03:55

The Grokster decision

While I was intially dismayed to hear of the Supreme Court’s ruling against Grokster, after reading some of the details of their decision I don’t think it’s really as bad as it seems. If I understand correctly (and to be fair, there’s a good chance I probably don’t since I’m not a lawyer or anything) the ruling makes it illegal to distribute software that allows for copyright infringement with the intent of promoting it for those uses. Granted the definition of intent is still nebulous enough to be a cause for some nervousness but it seems like as long as you’re careful in how you advertise your application that this wouldn’t necessarily stifle innovation. For example even though BitTorrent is frequently used in copyright infringement, its creator has always been clear that that’s not its intended purpose. And indeed it does have many legitimate uses, from distributing Linux ISO’s to putting out patches for World of Warcraft. Now if the results of this decision are used to go after a protocol such as BitTorrent, now that’s cause for some serious alarm. Still, hearing the result of this decision reminded me to do something that I’d been meaning to and put off far too long: supporting the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since they’re out there every day fighting for saner intellectual property laws and the like, I figured it was about time I chipped in.