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RIAA, MPAA lead appeal in P2P case

Deadline reached to file friend-of-the-court briefs in the bid for review

The Recording Industry Assn. of America and Motion Picture Assn. of America have organized a broad coalition of allies, including Netflix, the NBA and Jimmy Buffett, to support their request that the Supreme Court overturn the ruling in the Grokster case.

A three-judge panel for a U.S. appeals court ruled in August that P2P companies Grokster and Morpheus aren’t responsible for copyright infringement that users perform on their networks.

The RIAA, MPAA and the National Music Publishers Assn. filed papers last month asking the Supreme Court to review the decision, claiming that it conflicts with previous court rulings and unfairly absolves P2P companies of a contribution to the piracy in which users of their software regularly engage (Daily Variety, Oct. 11).

Joining fray

Monday was the deadline to file friend-of-the-court briefs in the bid for review.

Among those supporting the filing are copyright owners groups including all the Hollywood guilds, the Video Software Dealers Assn. and the Entertainment Software Assn.; 19 different recording artists; legit online distributors Movielink, CinemaNow and Napster; 15 law professors; music publishers including ASCAP and the Church Music Publishers Assn.; and 40 state attorneys general.

Several groups and individuals were noticeably missing, however, including songwriters’ org BMI, other sports leagues besides the National Basketball Assn., and the attorneys general from New York and California, home to most media companies.

“Our focus is on continuing to work with the P2P industry to address concerns that go beyond copyright infringement,” said a spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken out against piracy, though, and Lockyer is among several attorneys general who have sent a letter to P2P companies expressing concern over issues such as privacy and child pornography.

Announcement comes a week after the MPAA revealed that its member studios will follow the music industry’s lead and soon start suing individuals who illegally download movies (Daily Variety, Nov. 3).

On defense

While friend-of-the-court briefs haven’t yet been filed by defendants, a rep for Morpheus parent Streamcast Networks said several civil liberties and research groups are expected to support its case including the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Assn.

“Our viewpoint is that the petitioners are corralling as many voices as they can because they think the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” said Streamcast general counsel Matthew Neco. “We believe the Supreme Court isn’t going to let any squeaking change the merits of whether to take up a review.”

The nation’s highest court is expected to decide whether to review the case in its next session by January.

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