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June 27, 2005

Grokster

Well, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of MGM. Slashdot also has the story. Justice Souter wrote, "One who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright ... is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties using the device, regardless of the device's lawful uses".

From what I read now, the legality of file swapping software is now going to be based on how it is promoted. If Bram Cohen says, "BitTorrent is great for downloading illegal movies and music" he could be held liable for any illegal downloading done by BitTorrent users. On the other hand, if he says, "It's great for distributing Linux and other F/OSS packages", he cannot be held responsible for people who illegally download files.

I've been following this case with moderate interest, but I guess I was confused about what the case was about. I was under the impression that it was more sweeping in its scope; that they were deciding if P2P (represented by Grokster) software itself was illegal. From what I read now, this ruling sounds pretty reasonable.

That said, are there now going to be requirements for P2P developers to take the burden of actively making it clear that users should not engage in illegal downloads? Will independent projects that don't really promote their software beyond a download page have to take any additional (potentially costly) measures to "promote" their product for legal use only? If a single contributor to an opensource P2P application tells his friends that it worked great for downloading those "Phat New Kids on the Block Jamz", is the whole project in jeopardy? After all, he's one of the copyright holders (owners?).

I look forward to reading commentary from people who are more informed about this than I am.

On another note, the other day I came across this NewsForge article about XAMPP. This package installs Apache, mySQL, and PHP. Along with other packages like phpMyAdmin. It has been tested on SUSE and claims to make this LAMP installation very easy. I never had any major problems installing LAMP, but for a quick test environment, this might be a great solution. I haven't tried it yet, but I think I'll give it a shot on my laptop this afternoon. There is also a package for Windows.

Posted 15 years, 3 months ago on June 27, 2005
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