February 28, 2005

Alliances in the Grokster Battle [7:14 am]

Frankly, I don’t think one needs to go any further than “Fear Factor” and similar “reality” shows to find pornography these days, but that’s just me (OK, maybe not). After all, isn’t pornography just people degrading themselves for the gratification of a third party observer in exchange for money?

It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court elects to respond to this sort of politically charged hysteria: File - Sharing Case Unites Unlikely Allies [pdf]

File-swapping services make pornography easily accessible to minors, the social conservatives submit. The entertainment companies, meanwhile, blame sharing for declining sales and lost revenue.

An unlikely alliance thus formed.

“Hollywood is definitely a strange bedfellow to most of us,” said Jim Backlin, vice president of legislative affairs for the Christian Coalition of America. “Our goal was to cut down child pornography and other kinds of pornography, and if for some reason we were allied with the Hollywood types this time, so be it.”

On the other side, the file-sharing companies have also found unlikely allies, including libraries concerned that tighter copyright controls would stifle free speech.

[...] Attorneys general for 39 states and Guam, meanwhile, have sided with the social conservatives, raising concern over the potential for minors to stumble upon pornography.

The federal government also filed a brief. It argues that while file-sharing technology has legitimate uses, Morpheus and Grokster profit by encouraging computer users to copy music and films without paying for them.

Not to be outdone, file-sharing companies have support from a big slice of the technology sector.

“If Hollywood gets its way, they’ll be granted de facto control over, frankly, the vast majority of communications and technology today,” said Will Rodger, director of public policy for the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents Sun Microsystems Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and 28 other companies.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents upward of 1,700 technology companies, including Sony Corp., Intel Corp., TiVo Inc., is also planning a brief in support of Grokster and StreamCast.

The companies fear a ruling against the file-sharing services would leave them susceptible to lawsuits if they develop devices or technologies not approved by the entertainment industry.

[...] “We think there’s a distinction between analyzing the legality of a technology and analyzing the legality of a company or a company’s behavior,” said Jonathan Potter, executive director of the Digital Media Association, which counts Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. among its members. “We don’t think companies who create technology should be liable for other uses of the technology.”

Wonder where the National Rifle Association stands on this?

Later: Ernest Miller’s posting on other discussions of this set of alliances - An Engine of Censorship

Is it a coincidence that the copyright industry (which usually celebrates the First Amendment) seeks to get in bed with censors?

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