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Old 03-29-2005, 08:24 PM   #1
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File sharing legislation in US and Canada

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Washington Tuesday in a landmark case between entertainment giants and technology companies over the legality of online file-sharing services.

While the specific issue is whether to allow peer-to-peer internet file-sharing services, the case could have broad implications for current and future technology that could potentially be used to infringe copyrighted works. The nine judges must balance how to encourage new technology while still protecting the copyright owners of music and movies.

The case, officially known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios v. Grokster, pits 28 of the world's biggest entertainment giants, such as Walt Disney Co. and General Electric Co., against a number of technology companies, mainly Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks. Grokster and StreamCast distribute file-sharing software and maintain peer-to-peer networks that connect users.

The entertainment industry charges that these technology companies should be liable for facilitating copyright infringement by their users.

Donald Verrilli Jr., the lawyer representing the entertainment producers, argued Tuesday that these file-sharing networks allow people to exchange billions of music and movie files without having paid for them. According to Verrilli, the music industry alone has lost 25 per cent of its revenue since these networks began.

Allowing Grokster and similar networks to continue unchecked is like "giving them a continuous green light" to aid illegal music and movie sharing," Verrilli said.

Richard G. Taranto, the lawyer representing Grokster, argued that file-sharing networks cannot be held liable for what end-users do because the services themselves have many legitimate uses. He likened the new technology to that of videocassette recorders and referred to the 1980s controversy over Sony's Betamax player.

In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that makers of VCRs couldn't be held liable for any copyright infringement committed by users because the VCRs were capable of non-infringing uses.

Previously, lower U.S. courts have ruled in favour of the technology companies, saying that they cannot be held responsible for what their users do.

A decision is expected by the end of June.

OTTAWA - The federal government announced several proposed changes to Canada's Copyright Act on Thursday, aimed at stopping file sharing using programs like Kazaa.

If the amendments become law, internet service providers would be forced to make records of users who swap large numbers of songs or other material – like movies and television programs – online.

According to the announcement, the changes would "clarify that the unauthorized posting or the peer-to-peer file-sharing of material on the Internet will constitute an infringement of copyright.

"It will also be made clear that private copies of sound recordings cannot be uploaded or further distributed."

The proposed amendments are expected to be introduced in the House of Commons later in the spring.

The music industry is pushing to have the Copyright Act amended so it will be easier to sue file sharers in court.

"Clearly, once we get implementation there'll be no doubt ... it'll be illegal to engage in unauthorized file-sharing," Graham Henderson, the head of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, told the Canadian Press.

Under the reformed law, companies like Bell, Rogers and Shaw would be compelled to "play a role in curbing the misuse of their facilities for copyright

They and other service providers would have to alert subscribers when their connections are used for illegal file sharing, and would have to document the warnings that are sent out.

A court order would still be needed from prosecutors to have a look at the logs and identify the users in question.

The legislation also requires Canada to sign two international treaties sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization. By joining the treaties, the government would make it illegal for Canadians to swap music online.

Interesting to see outcome of these decisions and their effect on new technologies.
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