Cooperation Is Key for P2P, Media

By Chris Nolan  |  Posted 2005-06-27 Print this article Print

Opinion: The Grokster decision offers self-righteous techies a lesson in business conduct. (

In the future, when the grey-haired historians of Geekdom choose the moment when the tech business was forced to grow up, chances are good it will be the Monday in June when Silicon Valley awoke to find out that its innovators and inventors could be held liable for their mischief. If the tech community wants to be in business and stay in business, then it had better start acting in a businesslike manner. The Supreme Court has given "geek determinism"—the often adolescent belief that technology will triumph and that anything that stands in its way is lame, brain dead, foolhardy and stupid—a well-deserved smack upside the head.
In its ruling today on MGM v. Grokster, the court said that the nudge-nudge, wink-wink advertising and promotion that Grokster and Streamcast engaged in to promote themselves as alternatives to Napster was inducement for customers to break the law.
Read more here about the Supreme Courts decision in the MGM vs. Napster case.
"The classic instance of inducement is by advertisement or solicitation that broadcasts a message designed to stimulate others to commit violations. MGM argues persuasively that such a message is shown here. Three features of the evidence of intent are particularly notable. First, each of the respondents showed itself to be aiming to satisfy a known source of demand for copyright infringement, the market comprising former Napster users. Respondents efforts to supply services to former Napster users indicate a principal, if not exclusive, intent to bring about infringement. Second, neither respondent attempted to develop filtering tools or other mechanisms to diminish the infringing activity using their software."
In plainer language: If you invent it and sell it, you cant completely avoid responsibility for what youve done. Particularly if your marketing campaign relies very heavily on the "screw the man" thinking that passes for macho street cred in the geek community. When Napster—the first peer-to-peer software promoted for its use in sharing music—was ruled illegal, most tech folks shrugged. They knew plenty of people who were writing similar programs and it was clear to everyone that another file-sharing service would soon rise up and take over what Napster started. Thats exactly how Grokster and Streamcasts Morpheus built their businesses; relying heavily on the tech communitys belief in its ability to change the world and the arrogance that far too often accompanies that belief. Analysts argue that the Grokster case leaves the field open for legal P2P services. Click here to read more. But techies have only just started to change the world. Hollywood has been at it for a much longer period of time. They have the pretty people on their side. And the rest of their bag of tricks relies on a pretty good argument: Artists, writers, musicians and the businesses that employ them need to be compensated for their work. Read the full story on Cooperation Is Key for P2P, Media technology and politics columnist Chris Nolan spent years chronicling the excesses of the dot-com era with incisive analysis leavened with a dash of humor. Before that, she covered politics and technology in D.C. You can read her musings on politics and technology every day in her Politics from Left to Right Weblog. She can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.
Standalone journalist Chris Nolan runs 'Politics from Left to Right,' a political Web site at that focuses on the intersection of politics, technology and business issues in San Francisco, in California and on the national scene.

Nolan's work is well-known to tech-savvy readers. Her weekly syndicated column, 'Talk is Cheap,' appeared in The New York Post, Upside, and other publications. Debuting in 1997 at the beginnings of the Internet stock boom, it covered a wide variety of topics and was well regarded for its humor, insight and news value.

Nolan has led her peers in breaking important stories. Her reporting on Silicon Valley banker Frank Quattrone was the first to uncover the now infamous 'friend of Frank' accounts and led, eventually, to Quattrone's conviction on obstruction of justice charges.

In addition to columns and Weblogging, Nolan's work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, Fortune, Business 2.0 and Condé, Nast Traveler, and she has spoken frequently on the impact of Weblogging on politics and journalism.

Before moving to San Francisco, Nolan, who has more than 20 years of reporting experience, wrote about politics and technology in Washington, D.C., for a series of television trade magazines. She holds a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.


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