updated 01:50 pm EDT, Mon August 27, 2007
Judge Rules on P2P Theft
An Arizona court ruling late last week could potentially upturn the entire peer-to-peer software business, according to observing lawyers. In the case of Atlantic Records versus Jeffrey and Pamela Howell, presiding judge Neil Wake has ruled that the Howells' act of making content available through KaZaA equated to copyright infringement by itself and that the Howells were liable for perceived damages, which now reach $40,500 and include a permanent injunction which would prevent the Howells from infringement in the future. Using settings to control P2P trading are invalid as there have been "several cases" in the past where defendants had let their local content transfer to other users, Judge Wake said.
Although supported by past cases, the ruling is likely to help establish a strong precedent for other cases and could open the door to legal rulings against the software developers themselves, a number of which allow peer-to-peer trading without content filters or other methods that would screen known illegal content from the system. Pressure from lawsuits by RIAA-supported labels recently forced LimeWire to develop a legal online music store, while BitTorrent client developer Azureus has recently opened its Vuze (formerly Zudeo) peer-to-peer video service.
No word has been received as to whether the Howells will appeal the decision.