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August 19, 2004

Victory for Tech Freedom

The 9th Circuit, the same court that shut down Napster, just gave a major legal victory to the more decentralized Peer-to-Peer (P2) networks. The court held that the companies producing the software could not be held liable for copyright infringement by users of the software:

"The peer-to-peer file-sharing technology at issue is not simply a tool engineered to get around" previous rulings against the Napster file-sharing service, wrote Judge Sidney R. Thomas in a ruling for the panel. "The technology has numerous other uses, significantly reducing the distribution costs of public domain and permissively shared art and speech, as well as reducing the centralized control of that distribution."
This is important for those who think modern copyright law has largely become an oppressive force suppressing creativity and innovation, not promoting it as was its original purpose.

But it's also important for the more general principle that those who give only indirect support should not be held liable for crimes committed with those tools by others. In a country were John Ashcroft would like to throw anyone in jail who ever said hello to an alleged "terrorist" (which is increasingly defined as pretty garden-variety criminals), it's also an important legal win.

Posted by Nathan at August 19, 2004 06:53 PM