Judges yesterday attacked the business models of file-sharing companies as the case which could effectively spell out the future for many peer-to-peer programs got under way. The Supreme Court questioned attorneys for both the firms and Hollywood studios - and also criticised the entertainment industry's proposal that those behind the software "predominantly" supported by piracy should be held liable for copyright infringement.
Record labels and film studios are facing off against Grokster and StreamCast in the courtroom, after two federal courts ruled in favour of P2P. They said the software should be looked at in the same way as a VCR or a photocopier as it has legal uses - however, the labelsand studios say the software has been built on, and is mainly used for, illegal downloads.
Ronald Katz, a copyright attorney with Manatt, Phelps & Philips, told CNet: "I think the court is going to affirm (the lower-court rulings). This doesn't fit in with the way copyright law is written. But it's not surprising that the law doesn't fit with something that didn't exist at the time the law was made."
The case has already been going on for some five years, and as Neowin previously reported, the file-sharing side has won support from internet billionaire Mark Cuban. However, Justice Anthony Kennedy told the firms: "What you are suggesting is unlawful expropriation of property as a kind of start-up capital. From an economic standpoint and legal standpoint, that sounds wrong." Many protesters turned up to support the software firms - but some were on the other side of the divide, with a group of musicians saying they were there to give a human face to the cost of illegal downloading. "When we don't get paid, we can't pay our rent," said Erin Enderlin, one of the songwriters.
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