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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Media giants want internet ruling
Shawn Fanning, Napster founder
Napster collapsed after being paralysed by legal action
US music and film companies have asked a judge to rule on an internet copyright case without trial.

Their opponents - music file-sharing sites Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus - have asked the judge to dismiss the case against them.


You don't hold a crowbar manufacturer responsible if its product is used to break into a house

Fred von Lohmann, Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) have filed a motion in a Los Angeles federal court asking for a quick ruling in their copyright infringement case against file-sharing sites Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus.

The trade associations regard Kazaa, Grokster and Morpheus as havens of digital piracy, which have taken advantage of the industry's success against file-sharing services Napster and Aimster.

'Rejected'

They say the services base their appeal on facilitating copyright infringements - allowing users to share and copy music and video files without permission and without paying.

Eminem
Eminem's recent album had anti-piracy technology
"The defendants' business model is premised on legal theories that have been soundly rejected by both the Napster and Aimster courts," said Matt Oppenheim of the RIAA's business and legal affairs department.

But the file-sharing services say they cannot be held responsible for the misuse of their technology.

They are basing their case on a 1984 US Supreme Court ruling known as the Sony Betamax case.

Under that ruling, the court held that the video recorder manufacturer was not liable for copyright infringement because its Betamax recorders had "substantial" legitimate uses as well as illegal ones.

"There can be no liability for two reasons," said Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is helping to defend Morpheus.

"The first reason is that we have no ability to control how people use our software. Secondly, the software is capable of substantial non-infringing uses which was the basis for the Sony Betamax case."

Infringers

"You don't hold a crowbar manufacturer responsible if its product is used to break into a house," Mr von Lohmann added.

Kazaa site
Kazaa is a hugely popular service
In a separate development in Washington, the RIAA has demanded that the telecommunications giant Verizon Communications reveal the name of a customer it says is "a hub for significant music piracy".

Verizon has refused, saying that it must protect customer privacy.

"We need to make it abundantly clear to people that they are engaging in illegal activity when they are offering their personal music collection, which they don't own copyrights in, for others to take," said RIAA president Cary Sherman.

But a group of 300 other Internet providers has backed the Verizon stand - as have online civil liberties groups.

See also:

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