The Supreme Court ruled Monday that companies providing software used for the illegal downloading of music and videos can be held liable for copyright infringement.
The unanimous decision was a victory for Hollywood copyright owners in their fierce battle against Grokster Ltd. and other firms that distribute file-sharing software to consumers who mostly use it for the illegal exchange of billions of copyrighted works.
At issue was whether Grokster could be sued for providing the software or whether it should be held harmless from the actions of individuals using its product. A lower court had sided with Grokster.
In an opinion by Justice David Souter, the high court held that Grokster had an “unlawful objective” and could not be shielded from lawsuits in the same manner that the court had protected the makers of videotape recorders in a 1984 case involving Sony Corp. and the Hollywood studios.