The Supremes Do Grokster

On Tuesday, March 29, 2005, the US Supreme Court heard the oral arguments for the case of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. This was widely covered in the mainstream news media, as well as all over the Web, but none of the synopses of the case did true justice to the give-and-take of the arguments, as I discovered this week when I stumbled upon a .pdf transcription of the complete oral arguments.

That transcription ran some 55 double-spaced, line-numbered pages, which made for heavy going for a layperson like myself. Fortunately, the P2P weblog offers a much more readable HTML version of the text.

Before you read that, however, you might want to check out the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' 2004 Grokster decision, which lays the groundwork for the current case.

Okay, maybe I'm getting a tad obsessed over this, but the MGM case is frankly pretty frightening to me, even though I've never illegally downloaded a file, nor do I have any desire to. Why, then, am I scared? The suit seeks to create a standard that would stifle innovation and creation by holding creators responsible for the ways their inventions might be used.

Reading the back-and-forth between the Supreme Court's justices and the lawyers for both sides, I'm reassured, however. The judges seem more conversant with the technology issues than MGM's lawyers—they know the jargon and they have a sharp sense of when they are being spun. They ask skeptical questions of both sides' attorneys and they certainly don't telegraph their eventual ruling, which won't be handed down until late summer.

But don't take my word for it, go read it for yourself. After all, it could affect the future of your hi-fi and music collection more than any review we've ever published.