Larry Lessig’s opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times explains why the US Supreme Court may have opened the doors to the pending Viacom lawsuit versus YouTube.
Mike at Techdirt, my source for this post, explains Lessig’s take:
…[T]he Supreme Court had consistently said that copyright issues were a matter for Congress, not the courts, to change. But nearly two years ago, in the famous Grokster case, the Supreme Court went against its own deference to Congress on copyright matters by expanding the scope of copyright law to include a protection never previously allowed: making it against the law to ‘induce’ copyright infringement. Prior to that, the rules were pretty clear that only actual infringers were liable — but, as Lessig notes, this slight change now gives copyright holders two separate ways to go after copyright infringers. It can go after them directly (as the law had always held in the past) or, it can now go after any system, technology or tool used to infringe under the ‘inducement’ banner.
The flip side of Grokster inducement, set forth in an email to Techdirt, is a pretty good one.
A court punishing YouTube for material that its users post would be no different than a court punishing Gutenberg in the 15th century for inventing the printing press and holding him responsible for whatever was printed using his invention.