Digital Rights Groups Urge Court Not to 'Chill' Innovation

LimewireThe Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy & Technology and other groups are urging a federal court to balance the need to protect technological innovation with copyright owners' rights in an infringement lawsuit brought by the record industry against peer-to-peer network Lime Wire.

While the organizations do not take a position on who should win the lawsuit, they argue that at least some of the record industry's arguments in the case could "chill legitimate innovation" if accepted by the court.

"Digital technologies and the networks that connect them must invariably make copies as part of their basic operations," the groups argue. "Thus, there is always a risk that these tools, however well intentioned their designers, will be put to infringing uses."

The record industry filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Lime Wire two years ago, alleging that the service should be held responsible for piracy committed by users. The labels have argued in court papers that almost 99% of the download requests to Lime Wire users involve piracy.

"Lime Wire is good for one thing and used for one thing--massive infringement of sound recordings each and every day," the record labels wrote.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other groups say that even if peer-to-peer technology is used for piracy, companies should not be found liable for copyright infringement if the technology also has significant legitimate uses.

The record labels won a similar lawsuit against Grokster, but in that case the U.S. Supreme Court found that Grokster induced consumers to infringe on copyright by promoting itself as an alternative to the original Napster--which was infamous for enabling piracy.

Lime Wire says that it has taken steps to discourage copyright infringement, such as not letting people download its program unless they agree to follow copyright laws.

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