Media Circus: P2P Friends of the Court

In the Supreme Court of the United States METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER STUDIOS INC., et al., Petitioners v. GROKSTER LTD., et al., Respondents On Writ Of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit BRIEF AMICI CURIAE OF Jenni Weber and Chip Dunkin SUGGESTING AFFIRMANCE

The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing testimony March 29 from peer-to-peer networking providers and the movie industry. At issue is whether P2P providers, represented by Grokster and Streamcast, are responsible for what their users do with the downloaded material. Dozens have filed briefs with the court on the issue; here's just one example from a pair of teens from Decatur, Ill.

Amici are a teenage boy and girl who used to date but now are "just friends" and really like being able to grab whatever without having to pay. By that, we mean we're sure somebody paid at some point, and so whoever created whatever we're grabbing was compensated. This can include music, movies, and cool ring tones.

Amici write to tell the court of many of the issues surrounding their needs. For one, the economy has reduced our allowance to a paltry $20 a week  the rough equivalent of one DVD or two albums downloaded off of iTunes  which is pitiful.

The issue concerns the sheer inevitability of widespread P2P availability of many forms of media. Once stuff has been digitized, it's impossible to prevent it from getting around. Just the other day, Chip e-mailed Jenni an attachment of a JPEG showing you guys, the Supreme Court, naked  from that Jon Stewart book. It was hilarious!

It doesn't make sense to blame Napster or Grokster or whoever if we grab a Korn album off the Net for free. After all, they're just putting it out there like a shopkeeper putting a package of Twinkies on the shelf. If someone shoplifts those Twinkies, is it the shopkeeper's fault? We think not.

Back to the Twinkies: What if the shoplifter was really friggin' hungry? He lost his job, his family was starving, no health care, et cetera. He needed those Twinkies, and now you're going to throw him in jail along with the shopkeeper? Makes no sense. So, too, are many young people hungry for music and movies that they can't afford.

Let's face it: A lot of music and movies produced these days is absolute crap. Wouldn't it make sense to have a sliding scale? For example, the penalty for downloading a pirated copy of a Britney Spears movie shouldn't be as bad as one for any Quentin Tarantino flick (believe us, the Britney fan will pay a penalty in other ways!). Tarantino probably really needs that money to make his next awesome film; Britney really shouldn't receive any more money for anything she does (other than maybe retire).

Amici totally urge the Court not to dis the Sony-Betamax "capable of substantial non-infringing uses" test, which so still works.

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