Before I begin, I will say that I haven’t read the decision (too boring) and I am not a lawyer (too hard). Nonetheless, here is What I Think About This:
With a strange little sidestepping head fake, the supreme court has today ruled that makers of P2P software may be held liable for their users’ copyright infringement activities if the software was created with the intent of inducing users to infringe. Yipes. I think everyone expected them to uphold the old Sony Betamax decision that technology that had some infringing uses was OK as long as it had substantial non-infringing uses, and in fact the lower courts had used this as a precendent to rule in favor of Grokster and pals. But they pirouetted neatly around it by saying that it’s not about the technology, it’s about the intent and the business model and the marketing.
I’m kind of torn about this decision. While I do think it’s maybe not so good for a company to promote their software as a means to obtain free copyrighted material, this decision clearly makes it much scarier to make P2P software, even if you have completely non-infringing uses in mind. It’s just one more way you can get sued when you create innovative technology, and that’s probably bad for everyone. A decent, but certainly biased summary of this case can be read here at EFF.org.