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IEEE-USA Files Copyright Brief
Jan 2005
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 -- An approach to prevent copyright infringement while preserving technological innovation was proposed to the US Supreme Court Monday in a friend-of-the-court filing by IEEE-USA, a unit of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

According to the brief, a provider of dual-use technology that is capable of both infringing and noninfringing use, such as a VCR or a file-sharing system, should not be liable for the infringements of users unless the provider has actively induced the user to infringe.

Andrew Greenberg, vice chair of the IEEE-USA Intellectual Property Committee, said, "A careful balance must be struck between copyright incentives for authors to create works of authorship and the right of the public to benefit from technical means to reproduce and distribute those works.

"File-sharing technology serves as the basis for the Internet and should be unrestricted to produce future revolutionary digital products," Greenberg added. "On the other hand, copyright owners must not be left to the mercy of those who set out to knowingly and intentionally induce third parties to infringe."

The high-profile case in question, MGM vs. Grokster, will re-examine a 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling that originally paved the way for the videocassette recorder. The 28 Hollywood studios and music companies that sued Grokster and StreamCast Networks, two companies that offer peer-to-peer file-sharing software. Grokster and Morpheus filed legal arguments late Monday. The suit claimed that operators of file-sharing systems should be held responsible when their users copy music, movies and other protected works without permission.

At issue is whether and when restrictions can be placed on file-sharing technologies with both noninfringing and infringing uses.

In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that peer-to-peer networks are not liable for copyright infringement because, like the VCRs in the 21-year-old Sony Betamax Supreme Court ruling, they can be used for legitimate "noninfringing" purposes. On December 12, the US Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to consider this case. Oral arguments will be on March 29, with a decision expected this spring.

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IEEEIEEE-USAInstitute of Electrical and Electronics EngineersNews & Features

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