March 1, 2005 2:24 PM PST

P2P companies ask high court for help

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companies, said on a conference call Tuesday in response to the file-swapping companies' filings.

In their filings, StreamCast and Grokster said that they had no control over their customers' individual file trades, and so could not be held liable, based on the Betamax decision. Any decision that affected their software would be felt across the industry, they said.

"This is no different from Microsoft or any other software vendor which distributes software which is capable of lawful use, but is also capable of unlawful use," said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing StreamCast.

Both sides have gathered sometimes unlikely allies to support them in their legal bids, hoping to persuade the Supreme Court that they have widespread, mainstream support.

The record labels and movie studios were joined in January by the U.S. Solicitor General's office, 40 state attorneys general, and the Christian Coalition, as well as numerous musicians and songwriters.

Along with the technology and consumer electronics groups, file-swapping companies were joined by the American Conservative Union, the National Taxpayers Union, and a long list of legal professors and computer scientists. One brief included 20 musicians ranging from Public Enemy front man Chuck D to newcomer Jason Mraz, who said that file-swapping had actually helped--or at least had not hurt--their careers.

The Supreme Court will hear the case March 29. A decision is expected by midsummer.

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