I’m still trying to determine the likely results of two Supreme Court decisions today on P2P file sharing and the cable industry. Although I initially worried about the Grokster loss on the former, I’m more puzzled by the decision on the latter…
OK, so Grokster loses and all P2P systems are now considered guilty until proven innocent. Maybe. I’ve been following a Grokster Roundtable on The Wall Street Journal’s website (subscription required). John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and co-author of a brief that supported Grokster’s position had this to say:
Imagine you're the entrepreneur in your garage: can you figure out whether your new killer application will violate copyright's secondary liability rules? If not, you'll call your lawyer. Will she be able to tell you? My hope is that future courts will set the bar high, relying upon plain text readings of words like "purposeful" and "clear."
In other words, scare tactics on this front today will (hopefully) be offset by reasonable interpretation of this ruling's intent in the future. What sort of safeguards can a P2P file-sharing tool vendor put into the program to prevent, or at least discourage, illegal activities? The first one to find an answer to that question is likely to become the new industry leader, don’t you think?
How about the other technology ruling, the one about protecting cable companies and their broadband interests? The analogy often referred to is the one years ago when the phone companies had to lease their lines to competitors, resulting in intense competition, broader consumer choices and lower prices. What was so bad about that?! I’m dreaming of the day when I can tell my cable company I’m switching to another broadband provider. Instead, I’m stuck with them because I don’t want to switch to DSL just to get a lower monthly rate for a limited period of time. Why can’t we introduce true competition here and let the best company/plan win?