Even the VCR was used originally for infringement. Take home-video rental for example … Jack Valenti of all people went to Congress to say this is bad, we’re not going to be able to sell any movie tickets.

Michael Weiss, 6/27/05 on Open Source
You were getting used to paying for your music anyway, at 99 cents a pop for your iPod. Then today, the Supreme Court said unanimously: just forget about the romance, the furtive pleasure, of free music, or file-sharing as it’s called, meaning: the twilight trade in music (and movies for that matter) that have been downloaded from the Internet and then scattered to the four winds, no matter that the writers of the songs, and the movies, weren’t being paid for their work. The copyright hawks won the Supreme Court votes today. Grokster lost, because as the enabler of file-sharing it was pretty openly in the piracy business. The question’s what else has been lost in the fencing in of the Internet’s wide open spaces. And is it up to the “entertaiment industry,??? the movie and record companies, to write the rules and the pricetags for every dip you take into the wonderworld of the Web. On Open Source: The progress of law-and-order in the Wild West of the Internet.

Joshua Wattles

a law professor and copyright lawyer, served as council for both Paramount Pictures and Gnutella, a file sharing company, not unlike Grokster or Limewire

[via studio in LA]

Michael Weiss

CEO of StreamCast Networks, defendant in MGM v. Grokster & StreamCast Networks

[via phone from Los Angeles]

Jack Valenti

retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America

[by the phone from DC]

JD Lasica

author of Darknet, blogger for New Media Musings,

and founder and executive director of ourmedia

[by phone from San Francisco’s East Bay]

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  • Woo, good catch for tonight’s show.

  • An obvious contrast with the People’s Republic of China, where bloggers need to register with the government (last week’s show), but pirating movies and software is essentially allowed.

    I also find it interesting that the Supreme Court allowed the “Ten Commandments” monuments from the DeMille era– as they were not religious, but for a much more acceptable purpose: they were for marketing the movie.

    As for Grokster, I leave the commentary to the pundits… and I hope someone posts here with some more piercing insight.

  • Several years ago, reviewing “Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies” (edited by Edited by Andy Oram, O’Reilly & Associates, 2001) I wrote the following:

    “In Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers operating without knowledge of Internet time and recognizing the powerful incentives created by copyrights and patents, granted exclusivity to authors and inventors. Peer-to-peer contradicts this carefully mapped out plan. Copyrights, themselves a product of compromise between producer and consumer, need to mature in the digital age; they need the equivalent of a software update. Peer-to-peer enthusiasts need to understand what they are restoring before they destroy it. ”

    The main challenge of our time is how to find the right balance between incentives and openness, between authorial soveriegnty and sharing in the public interest. The world in which information needs to be free needs to find an optimal point on something akin to the Laffer Curve. Like most slippery questions, we are faced with: “How do we get there?” And it’s not just creative matter; it’s also drugs and software that continue this conundrum.

  • Build a revenue stream to the artist into the file format, and this all stops being an issue. Kids can download and preview before buying; creators can stop getting ripped off.

  • KenLac

    The fundamental tension:

    *The artistic urge is to share with as many as possible

    * The commercial urge is to restrict access (to preserve monetary value)

    The general public will always be compelled by the first much more than the second.

  • Jill the K.

    Hi all — can’t get the webcast up and running at the WGBH site! Tell them to FIX IT. But I’m smart and am listeing through CAI/NAN… Long time listener, first time — uh — what am I doing… ??

  • I found it richly ironic that Hollywood, which embodies the most virulent anticapitalist mentality in its products is the first to claim property rights. I can always scrtach a leftist and see a hypocrite. Again we need a new set of rules; copyrights and patents tenure should be limited. We need to think about incentives at the same time ensure fair use.

    Free Mickey Mouse now!

  • shpilk

    What of the concept of borders?

    If deemed ‘illegal’ in the USA, what of peer-to-peer software entities operating outside the USA, in countries that do not have the same regulations?

    Can the internet be regulated from a technical standpoint without blocking other information?

  • ebsherman

    The media companies are hypocritical. Look at the story of Peter Jackson suing New Line Cinema for lowering the payments owed him by undertaking licensing deals with other Time Warner companies and providing them with sweetheart pricing. The overall corporation keeps the same level of profits, but makes the apparent amount owed Jackson look smaller. This happens with book publishers and I’d be surprised if the practice didn’t extend to music. That is the corporate equivalent of sharing files without paying. If the principle bothers them so much, why do they continue doing it?

  • Chris Williams

    In response to Jack Valenti, it can’t be an acceptable result if the only legitimate downloads come from commercial services. This very radio show can be freely uploaded and downloaded by anyone who wishes, because the creators have granted their permission. How would Jack Valenti propose that I exercise this freedom?

  • Brendan

    Fconte, I’m a little confused; can you explain what you mean by extending the analogy to drugs and software?

  • vanbertozzi


    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a controversial United States copyright law which criminalizes production and dissemination of technology that can circumvent measures taken to protect copyright, not merely infringement of copyright itself, and heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. Passed on May 14, 1998…

  • Answer to Brendan

    Look at the problem the way an economist looks at it. Because the marginal costs of producing one more copy of an album, one software package or one pill is zero, you will find that piracy or claims “in the public interest” increase. After development costs for software, drugs or digital music or film are met, the costs for distribution are zero. The internet extenuates this problem (even for drugs). Government using the tools of property rights law extends the value of these products far beyond what’s economically viable so that firms or artists can extract rents. These are powerful incentives to create. Otherwise we would have few new products.

    Drugs are the perfect analog to this. (Isn’t Brazil — and India for that matter — allowing its citizens/firms to reverse engineer drug therapies? That’s definitely analogous.

    I hope I was able to explain my original post.


  • vanbertozzi

    Here’s an open roundtable discussion at the Wall Street Journal discussing the Grokster case

  • anson

    It is just plain silly (yes I use the word “silly”) to even attempt to fight P2P File sharing… Is this another war on drugs which cannot and will not be won? Really, even the discusion of trying to stop it is useless …

  • Brilliant show, thank you.

    (P.S., hilarious line: “File-swapping sounds like wife-swapping”!)

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  • thebroodwich

    Absolutely fascinating. I listened to the show this morning and loved it.