Technology feels the chill

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Misc

Just weeks after the US supreme court ruled against filesharing network Grokster, legal experts and industry insiders say the verdict is having a chilling effect on US technological innovation.

The Grokster case was the result of a lawsuit brought by 28 of America's largest entertainment companies against a group of peer-to-peer software developers. It hinged on a simple question: should the distributor of a tool be held liable for the copyright infringements that may be committed by that tool's users?

The answer, when it came, was vague. Under certain circumstances, the court said, programmers can be held responsible for the things people do with their applications.

The result, say some, is that venture capitalists made uneasy by the imprecise ruling are abandoning investments in filesharing technologies for more sedate arenas.

The threat of legal action can be as dangerous as legal action itself.

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