NEW COURT DECISION: FILE SHARING PROGRAMS ARE LEGAL

A federal court judge in Los Angeles handed down a decision about file sharing that actually makes sense for a change. Judge Wilson ruled that the parent companies of Morpheus and Grokster are not liable for copyright infringement that takes place using their software. There was a similar decision last year in the Netherlands about the Kazaa software. There is no centralized server working on the file transfers, as there was with Napster, and all of these services can be and are used for perfectly legal file transfers, as well as being used for swapping music or movies.

If these decisions stand, one unfortunate response by the recording industry police might be to start filing lawsuits against individual users downloading music files, trying harder than ever to create a climate of fear. Their efforts might be strengthened by an unfortunate decision yesterday allowing the recording industry to obtain the name of a Verizon subscriber accused of sharing music files – presumably so they can sue him into bankruptcy or have him thrown into jail. Our friends in the Bush administration recently filed a brief supporting the recording industry’s campaign of intimidation. The worst may be yet to come.