June 27, 2005 1:00 PM PDT
Congress applauds file-sharing ruling
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Key politicians from both major political parties said they were inclined to let the lawsuit, MGM v. Grokster, proceed through the court system before deciding whether to alter copyright law. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the case back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for a full trial.
Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said through a spokeswoman that he "is going to let the courts continue their role in reviewing the next phase of this case."
It's common for Congress to respond to court rulings with legislative tinkering, and many observers were predicting that the loser in this case would ask politicians for help. In a concurring opinion on Monday, Justice Stephen Breyer practically invited action from Congress, noting that "the legislative option remains available."
But Monday's unanimous opinion--which largely sided with record labels and movie studios but did not go as far as they had hoped--seemed to quell any thoughts of an immediate legislative response.
The Bush administration, in a statement from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, applauded the ruling. So did Rep. John Conyers, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, who called it a "victory" for consumers and content creators.
Rep. Mary Bono, a California Republican who is the co-chair of the Recording Arts and Sciences Caucus, said through a spokeswoman that she "is extremely pleased with the outcome of the Supreme Court decision and will look to ensure that no legislation threatens their ruling."
Supporters of Grokster's bid before the high court were left facing the twin setbacks of the Supreme Court's ruling and little relief in sight from Congress.
The high court's move effectively exterminates a proposal called the Induce Act that surfaced last year and drew stiff opposition from technology companies. Drafted in response to the 9th Circuit's decision in favor of Grokster and StreamCast Networks, the Induce Act would have punished companies that induced customers to violate copyright law.
Leahy spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in e-mail to CNET News.com that "Senator Leahy was a co-sponsor of the Induce bill with Senator Hatch last Congress, which treated inducement as an appropriate approach to secondary liability in this context, and the fact that the Supreme Court agrees with that is heartening."
Sen. Hatch, a prominent copyright hawk, went further. "Obviously, if it appears that U.S. industries, technological innovation or consumers are ultimately harmed by (Monday's) decision, Congress should consider a legislative solution that appropriately balances consumer interests, innovation and intellectual property rights," the Utah senator said.
CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this report.
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