File sharing: the opera

On the face of it, Jerry Springer: The Opera and Kazaa don’t have much in common. But according to The Inquirer, religious groups are on another “let’s ban stuff” crusade, and this time they want to crack down on file sharing networks.

The Christian Coalition, the Concerned Women for America, and Morality in Media have called for the Supreme Court to crack down on file sharing because it could lead to a “proliferation of anonymous, decentralized [sic], unfiltered, and untraceable peer-to-peer networks that facilitate crimes against children and that frustrate law enforcement efforts to detect and investigate these crimes.”

At the heart of the case is the Sony videocassette decision which allowed countless numbers of people to copy television programmes onto videos. It removed liability from companies that produced the tapes and established the concept of fair use.

Hollywood has tried for aeons to get this overturned and force everyone to buy copies of films and television programmes. Now it is applying the same arguments it did for the videos and against file-sharing.

First paragraph edited after posting because it didn’t make any sense.

4 thoughts on “File sharing: the opera

  1. Stephen says:

    This is a pretty revolting turn of events and no mistake. On the bright side, though, we’re clearly talking about people who are barking, and the chances of the Supremes (even with Bush’s new appointees) sanctioning restrictions on free speech, especially when motivated by a religious concern, is basically nil. You’re talking about two of the holiest cows of the Bill of Rights.

  2. Gary says:

    Don’t underestimate the power of huge sums of cash spent by lobbyists, or the power of bad publicity. If file sharing can be successfully demonised, then the Sony decision is on very, very shaky ground.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I won’t comment on MGM v. Grokster (which has been decided, with some saying the Sony doctrine is safe, others no). However, The Inquirer is incorrect in saying that the Sony decision established fair use.

    The fair use doctrine was established in 1841 by Justice Joseph Story (US Supreme Court, sitting on Appellate Circuit) in Folsom v. Marsh (9 F.Cas. 342). The Sony doctrine is only a particular expansion of fair use.

    In fact, it has been argued that Story did the American public no favor, as fair use turned American copyright jurisprudence on its head, by changing the basic assumption of copying from “noninfringing until proven otherwise” to “infringing until proven otherwise.”

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