Supreme Court to rule on file-sharing

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Legal

The eyes of the technology and entertainment worlds are on the U.S. Supreme Court this week for a pivotal decision that could determine the future of music on the Internet.

The decision on MGM v. Grokster, which could come as early as tomorrow, tackles the problem of illegal file sharing of songs and video over the Web, but its impact could be much broader.
As more creative content goes digital, the case has far-reaching implications for consumers and companies across the country.

At the heart of the case is a question: Should Grokster and other companies that provide technology be held responsible for the actions of people who use the technology?

Rights holders — from movie studios to Major League Baseball — argue that the manufacturers of the technology should be held liable for protecting copyrights. Technology advocates and civil libertarians argue that manufacturers should not have the burden of controlling how their product will be used.

"There should be some way of prohibiting so-called pirate services so copyright owners don't go bust," said Steve Gordon, an entertainment attorney and consultant who has written extensively on the issue. At the same time, he said, "You don't want to thwart new technologies from growing and expanding and helping the economy."

Companies on both sides of the debate already have started to formulate strategies. For some, the outcome could make or break their business plans.

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