Supreme Court urged to hear file-sharing case

/ Source: The Associated Press

A disparate group made up of dozens of state attorneys general, labor unions, retailers, professional sports leagues and others urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to hear a claim brought by the recording and film industries against two Internet file-sharing firms.

In legal briefs filed with the court, the petitioners stressed the justices should take the entertainment companies' case and finally resolve conflicting lower court rulings on file-sharing, said Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America.

The filings are designed to support a petition made last month by a coalition of major recording companies and Hollywood movie studios who asked the court to reverse lower court decisions clearing Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc. of liability for their customers' online swapping of movies and music.

Grokster distributes file-sharing software of the same name; StreamCast distributes a program called Morpheus.

In August, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a Los Angeles federal judge's ruling in a copyright lawsuit brought by the entertainment industry against Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc.

But that ruling applies only to the states under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit. In 2003, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a lower court ruling that successfully shuttered the Madster file-sharing service.

Among Monday's petitioners siding with the entertainment companies were the Association of American Publishers, Screen Actors Guild, Recording Artists Coalition, National Basketball Association and the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Marks said.

The sports leagues contend that if the court does not weigh in on file-sharing, programming that they license could wind up being disseminated online without their permission, sapping sales.

Briefs were also filed on behalf of recording artists Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow, among others. Licensed online music retailers Napster, MusicNet and DVD subscription provider Netflix Inc. also filed briefs, Marks said.

The artists' documents argued performers, particularly non-superstars, are hurt by losing potential sales royalties to file-sharing. Napster and the other online retailers also argued they face losses from competition with unlicensed file-sharing services.

In all, 41 state attorneys general also submitted briefs. They argued file-sharing programs pose risks to consumers, such as identity theft and being unwittingly exposed to spyware and child pornography, Marks said.

Meanwhile, attorneys for StreamCast on Monday filed a brief with the court, asking the justices not to overturn the 9th Circuit's ruling.

"The petitioners are grasping for straws when they disingenuously assert that the Supreme Court should review the matter," the company's lawyers wrote. "The law is clear and has already been decided."