Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

Court Sets Jury Trial in Morpheus Peer-to-Peer Software Case

Judge Delays Decision on Betamax VCR Defense

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 4, 2002

Los Angeles - U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson today delayed ruling on whether the noninfringing uses of the Morpheus peer-to-peer software product should shield it from a copyright lawsuit filed by 28 major entertainment companies.

Streamcast Networks, creators of the Morpheus software, had asked the court to rule in favor of the technology on the basis of the "Betamax defense" -- the principle that a technology capable of noninfringing uses cannot be banned simply because some people may use it to infringe copyrights. The judge stated that it was too early to rule on this question, deciding instead to set an accelerated trial schedule with a jury trial beginning on October 1, 2002.

"I am truly pleased that, unlike many of the cases where new technologies have been attacked by entertainment companies, we will have the chance to make our case before a jury of our peers," said Steve Griffin, CEO and President of Streamcast, the company which also maintains the MusicCity.com website.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), along with the law firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, represents Streamcast. Andrew Bridges, partner at Wilson Sonsini and lead attorney in the case, said, "While we are disappointed that the judge thought our motion was premature, we look forward to renewing it and also welcome the prompt resolution of the case before a jury."

"There is an important principle at stake here," said Fred von Lohmann, EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney, "Morpheus, as a technology that has numerous noninfringing uses, should be legal for the same reasons that VCRs, photocopiers, mp3 players, and CD burners are legal."

Morpheus software users currently access a broad variety of materials, including public domain texts from Project Gutenberg, "shareware" programs like the WinZip file compression software, films from the Prelinger Archive, music videos from Lil'Romeo and others distributed with permission by J!VE Media Technologies, and live concert recordings authorized by musicians.

Streamcast also cited the Napster case, noting that the court held Napster liable based on Napster's operation of a centralized file-indexing service, but it never held Napster liable for, or enjoined, creation or distribution of its software. In its ruling on Napster, the 9th Circuit warned, "To enjoin simply because a computer network allows for infringing use would, in our opinion, violate Sony and potentially restrict activity unrelated to infringing use."

On October 2, 2001, twenty-eight of the world's largest entertainment companies sued Streamcast, the Nashville-based developer of the leading P2P file-sharing program Morpheus, for the infringing actions of users of its product (MGM et al v. Grokster et al, Case No. 01-CV-8541 SVW).


For this release:

Documents related to Metro-Goldwyn Mayer v. Grokster case:

U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Betamax case, Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.:

9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in RIAA v. Napster:

Related music publisher lawsuit against MusicCity:

EFF Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression: