Judges at the US Supreme Court have been hearing evidence for and against file-sharing networks. The court will decide whether producers of file-sharing software can ultimately be held responsible for copyright infringement.
They questioned if opening the way for the entertainment industry to sue file-sharers could deter innovation.
They also said that file-trading firms had some responsibility for inducing people to piracy.
The lawsuit, brought by 28 of the world’s largest entertainment firms, has raged for several years.
Legal experts agree that if the Supreme Court finds in favour of the music and movie industry they would be able to sue file-trading firms into bankruptcy.
But if the judge rules that Grokster and Morpheus – the file-sharers at the centre of the case – are merely providers of technology that can have legitimate as well as illegitimate uses, then the music and movie industry would be forced to abandon its pursuit of file-sharing providers.
Instead, they would have to pursue individuals who use peer-to-peer networks to get their hands on free music and movies.
The hi-tech and entertainment industries have been divided on the issue.
Intel filed a document with the Supreme Court earlier this month in defence of Grokster and others, despite misgivings about some aspects of the file-sharing community.
It summed up the attitude of many tech firms in its submission which states that its products “are essentially tools, that like any other tools, capable of being used by consumers and businesses for unlawful purposes”.
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