September 30, 2005

Missed This: The Register of Copyrights Speaks [1:26 pm]

Testimony: Protecting Copyright and Innovation in a Post-Grokster World

[T]he sharp divisions in the Court over precisely how to interpret the “Sony rule” may have a salutary effect of causing developers of technology to take steps to ensure that their products and services truly have substantial noninfringing uses and are not used primarily as infringement tools. While we were hopeful that the Court’s ruling would add clarity to this area of the law, it may be that the lack of clarity causes more socially responsible behavior by those who previously might have been tempted to rely on what they perceived as a “bright-line test” that absolved technology providers from any responsibility whatsoever for the uses to which their offerings are put.

[...] n fact, the Grokster decision should be very helpful to the United States as it continues its discussions with other countries about bringing their copyright laws up to date to meet the challenges of the digital networked environment that connects people around the world. Peer-to-peer infringement is not just a problem in the United States; it is a major problem abroad as well. In fact, to the extent that the Grokster decision provides new legal tools to stop massive peer-to-peer infringement, those tools will be of limited use if unlawful peer-to-peer services simply relocate abroad to jurisdictions where United States law has no applicability and local laws do not reach such conduct. The Grokster decision will assist us greatly in explaining how rules of secondary liability can play a key role in combatting massive peer-to-peer infringement. In fact, if our Supreme Court had upheld the lower courts’ rulings of no liability, it likely would have made our task immeasurably more difficult: how could we urge other countries to take action if our own legal system is not up to the task?

The Judiciary Committee Hearing site: Protecting Copyright and Innovation in a Post-Grokster World

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BusinessWeek on BitTorrent’s VC Dollars [9:12 am]

BitTorrent’s Grab at Respectability [pdf]

BitTorrent, the maker of popular file-sharing software used to distribute movies, music, and games both legally and illegally, is going commercial. The company has raised $8.75 million in venture capital from Menlo Park (Calif.)-based Doll Capital Management and plans to create a marketplace for dispensing digital goods.

[...] [Brian] Cohen always distanced himself from illegal use of his technology, though he did make money by accepting donations and selling T-shirts — that is, until the past year. Ashwin Navin, a former Yahoo! (YHOO ) employee and now BitTorrent’s chief operating officer, met Cohen last year, and the two began discussing how to turn the publishing technology into a bigger business.

They set up headquarters in San Francisco and began looking for venture funding. They spoke to studios, record labels, and industry associations, including the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. Now, with the VC money, BitTorrent plans to build out a marketplace aimed at attracting the huge audience of BitTorrent users, which the company estimates at around 45 million people. “We want to bring people the content that they want to watch,” says Navin. “Some of that will come from Hollywood, some will be independently created.”

Aspirations aside, BitTorrent’s planned transition is fraught with risk. Its execs have to persuade movie executives, game makers, and record labels to distribute their works through the service. [...]

A big part of winning over holders of copyrighted work will be addressing concerns over illegal file sharing, much of which is done through so-called BitTorrent superhubs, independent sites that distribute both legal and illegal content. Navin says BitTorrent is working with the superhubs to reach licensing agreements on copyrighted works. BitTorrent will include any copyright protection technology that rights holders want to use.

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