Monday, November 25, 2013

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. case brief

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. case brief summary
545 U.S. 913 (2005)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Petitioner copyright holders sued respondent software distributors, alleging that the distributors were liable for copyright infringement because the software of the distributors was intended to allow users to infringe copyrighted works. Upon the grant of a writ of certiorari, the holders appealed the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which affirmed summary judgment in favor of the distributors.

CASE FACTS
The distributors were aware that users employed their free software primarily to download copyrighted files, but the distributors contended that they could not be contributorily liable for the users' infringements since the software was capable of substantial noninfringing uses such as downloading works in the public domain.

DISCUSSION

  • The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held, however, that the distributors could be liable for contributory infringement, regardless of the software's lawful uses, based on evidence that the software was distributed with the principal, if not exclusive, object of promoting its use to infringe copyright. 
  • In addition to the distributors' knowledge of extensive infringement, the distributors expressly communicated to users the ability of the software to copy works and clearly expressed their intent to target former users of a similar service which was being challenged in court for facilitating copyright infringement. 
  • Further, the distributors made no attempt to develop filtering tools or mechanisms to diminish infringing activity, and the distributors' profit from advertisers clearly depended on high-volume use which was known to be infringing.

CONCLUSION
The judgment affirming the grant of summary judgment to the distributors was vacated, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

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