"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States


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Wednesday, March 30, 2005
  Interesting Link on MGM vs. Grokster
I found this interesting post by Taylor W. Buley on the MGM v. Grokster case. What makes it interesting is that he compares this case to the trial of Hank Rearden, in Atlas Shrugged. In Mr. Buley's view, MGM and the other producers are the Hank Reardens of this case, being exploited and deprived of the benefit of their creation.

While I sympathize with MGM, who is legitimately the victim of an egregious violation of their property rights by some of the users of p2p software, I am not yet convinced that the creators of the software are at fault. The analogy that immediately comes to my mind here is the companies that produce hand guns.

Hand guns have legitimate, and illegitimate uses. The standard of legitimacy is whether the action in question violates individual rights. If a hand gun is used to defend your life from a mugger, this is a valid usage; if it is used to become the mugger, and initiate force against others, this is an illegitimate use. irrespective of the legitimacy of use, the company that produces the hand gun is not responsible for how the gun is used; that responsibility falls upon the individual who uses it. When Brian Nichols gunned down a judge, court stenographer and deputy sheriff, the police did not arrest the makers of the hand gun he used to perpetrate the crime; they arrested Mr. Nichols, who is the responsible individual for the force initiated in this instance.

Similarly, the use that infringes the copyright of MGM and others is an invalid use, which I don't think can be directly attributed to the creators of the software which is used in the infringement. Even if we grant the notion (which I concede probably isn't too far off) that 90% of the use of this software does constitute a violation of copyright, I don't find that sufficient grounds to punish anyone other than the individuals who happen to be violating the copyright.

For those interested in a more detailed (and technical) discussion of this issue, I'd recommend reading the decision issued by the 9th Court of Appeals on this case in 2004; it is available as a PDF document here. Of further interest is the original district court's decision (available in PDF format here) and Grokster's own website.

Please note that this is just my initial response; I want to study the details of this case in more detail before I come to a final conclusion.

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