Friday, September 02, 2005

RIAA Spokesman Distorts MGM v Grokster

An RIAA spokesman has been making false statements to the press about the MGM v. Grokster case. He has been saying that the Supreme Court held that file sharing is "garden variety theft".

In fact the court's decision says nothing of the kind.

The only reference to "garden variety theft" is in the concurring opinion of Justice Breyer, in which Justice Breyer opined that the Court should not deviate from Sony v. Betamax:

"In any event, the evidence now available does not, in my view, make out a sufficiently strong case for change. To say this is not to doubt the basic need to protect copyrighted material from infringement. The Constitution itself stresses the vital role that copyright plays in advancing the useful Arts. Art. I, §8, cl. 8. No one disputes that reward to the author or artist serves to induce release to the public of the products of his creative genius. United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U. S. 131, 158 (1948). And deliberate unlawful copying is no less an unlawful taking of property than garden-variety theft. See, e.g., 18 U. S. C. §2319 (criminal copyright infringement); §1961(1)(B) (copyright infringement can be a predicate act under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act); §1956(c)(7)(D) (money laundering includes the receipt of proceeds from copyright infringement). But these highly general principles cannot by themselves tell us how to balance the interests at issue in Sony or whether Sony's standard needs modification. And at certain key points, information is lacking." [italics supplied]

He nowhere said that peer to peer file sharing was a "garden variety theft".

The entire decision is posted at

The actual quote is at page 50 of the 55-page pdf file.


Matt C said...

Nice to see a good blog on this. Keep it up.

An RIAA spokesman, of course, can be expected to speak in this deliberately confused/confusing manner. But I expect more from a senator, who doesn't mention gardens, but asserts that P2P is "potentially worse than common shoplifting, [and] is putting thousands of Americans out of work."

I believe that comments so obviously ignorant of SCOTUS's actual holding and dicta are typed up for our senators (by ________?) and handed to them when it's time to issue a press release.

Artists for File Sharing

raybeckerman said...

Thanks, Matt.

Jonathan said...

To my mind, this simply illustrates the real goals of the RIAA: the demonization and eventually outlawing (if possible) of file sharing technology. That's because the legal use of this technology makes the record companies obsolete. They're using dirty, underhanded and corrupt techniques in an attempt to maintain their business.

The RIAA is basically misusing the legal system and using Congress to keep the money going. They're trying to legislate their business model, because they can't compete on an even playing field in the free market.

These guys are obsolete, and they're hurting an awful lot of innocent people trying to fight it.

Anonymous said...

Not to be a total asshole -- but isn't the case Universal City Studios v. Sony Corp.?