Post Date: March 4, 2005

The brief urges the justices to adhere to a 20-year-old legal standard that has historically exempted technology distributors from liability of copyright infringement because of the “substantial noninfringing uses” of their technology. The brief warns that altering the standard and potentially holding technology makers of devices like iPods or CD burners liable could jeopardize the future of technological innovation.

“The brief makes three main arguments: First, the standard for contributory copyright infringement that the Supreme Court announced in the Sony case has sensibly balanced the legitimate needs of copyright owners and the equally important societal interest in fostering innovation,” said Professor Terry Fisher, an expert on intellectual property. “Second, a host of new, rapidly growing Internet-based business models may repair the damage that the entertainment industry has sustained to date from unlawful uses of peer-to-peer services. Finally, if those new business models prove insufficient and legal reform is necessary, then Congress is better equipped than the courts to make the kinds of precise adjustments to the statute that would be optimal.”

The brief builds on a series of papers produced by the Center’s Digital Media Project on the future of copyright law, business models, and technological innovation in the digital media era. The brief is available for downloading on the Berkman Center’s website.