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Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 3/30/2005

P2P heads to court

As we all await the results of the Final Four in college basketball, two big-time groups are squaring off this week in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America.

The defendants StreamCast Networks and Grokster, two creators of peer-to-peer software (P2P).

The suit intends to stop the illegal downloading of copyright protected music and film via P2P.

The claims that the future of innovation and the dissemination of ideas, or the right to earnings from copyright-protected material are being threatened.

If copyright owners can sue the inventors of new technologies for however their users decide to use the gadget, then few tech companies will be safe. If the Supreme Court allows the movie and music companies to sue P2P vendors, it might flip its own 21-year-old ruling that has balanced the rights of copyright owners with innovations like the VCR, the copying machine, and MP3 players.

Supreme Court judges ejected claims in 1984 against Sony s Betamax VCR. The court wrote that the makers of technologies with significant uses other than infringing copyrights were not liable for their users copyright violations. That court ruled that the Betamax technology had "substantial" uses other than infringement (such as recording TV shows for later viewing).

The software produced by Grokster and StreamCast has non-infringing uses such as sharing music that is not copyright-protected, and sharing internet-routed phone calls. Lawyers for the entertainment industry claim that Grokster software is designed specifically to allow users to steal music and movies. Also, many P2P vendors have designed software that doesn t track the files users trade, and the vendors refuse to make changes that would filter out copyrighted files.

But just as in 1984, the doomsday predictions by the entertainment industry will turn out to be wildly inaccurate.

The music and movie industries have now weathered VCRs, and cassette tapes before this latest abyss.

Even before this case is resolved, innovation and changed patterns have moved the debate in another direction.

When court action KO d the original Napster P2P a few years ago, two things occurred: fee-based services sprang up, and users found alternatives to obtain their coveted material.

Informal file-sharing between friends and family included workarounds like trading files with someone else s iPod or MP3 player, and trading files by e-mail, instant messaging (IM), music and movie Web sites, and online review Web sites.

Those who want their music and movie files are persistent.

The music and movie industry can bank on one thing people want product and they want it quickly and cheaply. The music and movie industry must find out how to provide that and clean up on the volume, or constantly rally in court.

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Republican Sen. Alan Cropsey of DeWitt is sponsoring a bill (Senate Bill 286) that would require an Internet dating company serving Michigan residents to disclose on its Web site whether it has conducted criminal background checks on users, based solely on the names provided. A provider also would have to disclose the limitations of background checks and urge members to adhere to safe dating practices. The Senate could vote on the bill in April.

The legislation is backed by True.com, the only online dating service that performs criminal screening. Similar legislation has been proposed in California, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Texas.

Twenty-six million people visited dating sites in January, according to the Internet research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Only 80 days remaining before the June 18 Grandma s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. Training partner Lorrie hits a snag with a nagging hip injury that makes a planned 13-mile run a wash for both of us. Experience gained from the Detroit Marathon means that only a two-week rest and some limited cycling might repair things. My mid-week 6-mile dashes and weekend long runs will be a bit quiet for now.



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