March 30, 2005 Supreme Court Justices Grill Both Sides at Copyright Hearing

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was heartened to hear the Justices of the United States Supreme Court engage in a lively debate Tuesday about whether technology manufacturers should be held liable for the infringing activities of consumers. At stake is nothing less than the future of innovation in the United States — if vendors are held responsible for what people do with their products, even tech giants like Intel say they’d have to fire engineers and hire lawyers.

MGM and nearly a dozen other entertainment companies argued that peer-to-peer software manufacturers Grokster and StreamCast had built their businesses by distributing “infringing machines.” But counsel for the entertainment industry, Donald B. Verrilli Jr. of the law firm Jenner & Block, scarcely finished his opening statements before the Justices interrupted with pointed questions about how his arguments would impact technological innovation. Justice Antonin Scalia asked how the industry would protect nascent technologies from “out-of-the-box lawsuits,” and Justice Stephen Breyer pushed him to explain why MGM’s argument wouldn’t also apply to the iPod, Xerox machines, and even Gutenberg’s printing press.

EFF: Press Room

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