The Grokster Decision: Senators Tell Tech. Industry To Do More To Curb Infringement

By Cameron
July 29, 2005

Update: The Committee has posted the video archive of the hearing (RealPlayer required) — skip ahead approx. 17 minutes to get to the start of the hearing.

Original post (7/28/2005): The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing today on implications of the Supreme Court’s MGM vs. Grokster decision. The witnesses were (their testimony is linked to the names):

We haven’t had time to read through all the testimony, but that wasn’t the interesting part of the hearing. During the question and answer session, Senators came down hard on the technology industry — ISPs and P2P software providers. Mr. Eisgrau had floated the idea of a conference of all intersted parties to work out their issues — including a collective licensing system. That idea flopped with the Senators. Instead of a conference, they wanted action.

At one point, Senator Stevens, critical here because he is the Chairman of the Committee, seemed stunned when the ISPs asserted that they couldn’t identify specific copyrighted music files flowing over their networks (presumably to filter it). He analogized that it was similar to a piano player at a house of disrepute saying he didn’t know what was going on upstairs.

Senator after Senator (including Senator Boxer from California) were incredulous that the tech industry wasn’t doing more with the technology to curb infringement. The tech witnesses tried to make it clear what the technology could or couldn’t do and about active inducement vs. how the technology was designed, but across the board the Senators didn’t seem to care about that degree of nuance — they just wanted more done. Chairman Stevens concluded the hearing by saying that rarely do he and Senator Boxer agree, but on this point it was clear the technology industry must do more to curb piracy, and they will be watching.

We are hoping that the webcast will be archived, but if it isn’t we will post the transcript. It is going to be well worth a read to see where USACM needs to clarify the capabilities of technology. This clearly wasn’t a good “messaging” hearing for the technology industry.