Several Supreme Court Justices on Tuesday grilled attorneys for the entertainment industry who are attempting to sue companies who produce technology that can be used to distribute copyrighted material. This battle used to amount to little more than Metallica versus tweens who used Napster to pirate Christina Aguilera singles. Recently, however, the battle has shifted into an epic saga of The Entertainment Industry versus The Tech Industry.
The problem is if the Supreme Court dismisses the rulings of two lower courts that have already sided with Grokster, then the future of content-based technology can become severely threatened. If manufacturers, designers, and inventors think they might be sued if their technology is used to break the law, it’s likely their innovations may be seen as little more than liabilities — and consequently, go unreleased. If these laws existed 20 years ago, it’s possible we wouldn’t have VCRs, CDRW/DVDRW drives, iPods, or even dual deck cassette recorders (gasp!). I hope that the courts continue to find that technology doesn’t steal, people steal.
The music industry, with the help of Apple Computers, has made tremendous strides recently in offsetting profits lost to pirating with the help of iTunes, and it seems this would be a good time let technology continue to mature in a way that benefits both producers of content, and people seeking on-demand material.