Home' Technology Review : October 2005 Contents TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
L , in MGM v.
Grokster, the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled that le-sharing
companies can be held ac-
countable for what users do
with their software. I'm not worried, how-
ever. That's because I've never used my
computer to steal music.
I have reported on le sharing since
the heady early days of Napster. I've inter-
viewed many of the major players. And
I've stuck a microphone in the faces of
technology industry obser vers, who have
given me their take on the nancial, ethi-
cal, and societal impact of peer-to-peer
networks. But I have never shared the
content of my hard drive or downloaded
content from others'.
I wasn't frightened of headlines like
"Tech Reporter Busted in File-Sharing
Crime Spree." I don't steal music for the
same reason my parents didn't want me
stealing comic books from the cor ner con-
venience store. Forget MGM v. Grokster.
It's about right versus wrong. I'm a jour-
nalist; ideas and words are my currency;
and I am sympathetic to other creative
types, like musicians, who want to get paid
for their work.
Nonetheless, I'm not inclined to be-
lieve that the Supreme Court's decision
will bring religion to any of these down-
loading heathens. It's only six years since
the dawn of Napster, but that has been
long enough for many computer users to
develop their own ethical standards re-
garding the sharing of music. And free,
easy-to-use technology will always stay
one step ahead of any law.
Still, I had to laugh when RealNet-
works took the Supreme Court r uling and
rubbed it squarely in Grokster's face. "No
hassles. No lawsuits," read the full-page
advertisement in the New York Times for
Real's Rhapsody music service. The out-
line of a judge's gavel hovered above the
words. Rhapsody o ers music downloads
licensed by the Recording Industry Asso-
ciation of America (RIAA), so its users
won't be subject to lawsuits from music la-
bels. In its 55-page opinion, the Court had
criticized StreamCast Networks, the pro-
vider of le-sharing program Morpheus
and another defendant in the case, for
mentioning the granddaddy of all le-
sharing services, Napster, in its own ad-
vertisement. That ad read, "Napster Inc.
has announced that it will soon begin
charging you a fee. That's if the courts
don't order it shut down rst. What will
you do to get around it?"
Three weeks before the Court's deci-
sion, I hosted a one-hour CNNRadio spe-
cial called "The Fight over File-Sharing."
In one cor ner, representing the content
providers: RIAA president Cary Sher-
man; Motion Picture Association of
America (MPAA) president Dan Glick-
man; Grammy-winning country music
star Clint Black; and Marilyn Bergman,
Oscar-winning songwriter and president
of the American Society of Composers,
Authors, and Publishers. In the other cor-
ner, arguing for the right to share les:
Lawrence Lessig, cyberlaw expert and
the author of Code and Free Culture;
rapper and producer Chuck D of Public
Enemy; Adam Eisgrau, executive director
of P2P United, the lobby group that in-
cludes Grokster and StreamCast; and
Wayne Rosso, Grokster's former CEO.
Lessig, who argues that the existing
copyright laws were written for the 18th-
century printing press and not for 21st-
century downloading, drew attention to
a strange inconsistency in the White
House's support for music producers in
their case against Grokster: why would a
Republican administration want to cele-
brate a victory for regulation? "This is a
totally familiar Republican argument,"
Lessig said. "If you regulate in this eld
heavily, what you'll do is get much less in-
novation and investment."
By Invitation Renay San Miguel
with File Sharing
After MGM v.Grokster, are we any closer to a solution?
Renay San Miguel is an anchor on CNN
Headline News. Previously he reported on
technology for CNN Headline News, CNN,
CNBC, and CBS.
But Sher man argued that the music in-
dustry wants to embrace innovation, too.
Black made Sherman's case by eloquently
arguing that music industry employees
could lose their jobs if Black's music sales
su er because of illegal downloading. To
Glickman, the whole argument was about
how the movie industry could avoid the
music industry's mistakes---like failing to
anticipate digital downloads. The week
before the radio show, the FBI, with the
help of the MPAA, had shut down Elite
Torrents, a website o ering access to
pirated movies. Glickman told me the
MPAA is now starting to sue individuals,
just as the RIAA has. I asked if he was con-
cerned that for every Elite Torrents he puts
out of business, two or three will take its
place. Glickman answered, "You have no
choice except to try to go after them, and if
you go after them vigorously enough and
with the help of the federal government...
you at least send a strong signal that this
conduct is illegal and it will not be toler-
ated and it will be punished."
I am not so sure it will work. I want
artists and writers to be compensated for
their work, but how will they ever catch
the woman who recently sat next to me on
a plane and watched a bootleg copy of The
Interpreter on her laptop?
Instead of quietly alerting the ight at-
tendant that I was sitting next to a cultural
terrorist, I went back to reading my home-
work for the radio special: Lawrence
Lessig's book, Free Culture. ■
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