In a blow to the entertainment industry, a federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday denied the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) motion for summary judgment in its copyright-infringemen

In a blow to the entertainment industry, a federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday denied the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) motion for summary judgment in its copyright-infringement suit against peer-to-peer file-swapping services Morpheus and Grokster, Billboard Bulletin reports. The trade group, along with the National Music Publishers' Association and the Motion Picture Association of America, filed the suit in 2001.

Friday's ruling does not affect litigation against file-sharing service KaZaA, which the RIAA added to the complaint last summer.

In his decision, Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the P2P services are not liable because they are capable of non-infringing use. He compared the case to landmark litigation brought by movie studios in 1984 against Sony Corp. over its sale of Betamax videocassette recorders. "The sale of copy equipment ... does not constitute contributory infringement if the product is capable of substantial non-infringing uses," Wilson wrote.

Civil-liberty advocates applaud the decision. "This ruling makes clear that technology companies can provide general-purpose tools without fear of copyright liability," says Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The RIAA says it will immediately appeal, citing Wilson's contention that Morpheus and Grokster may have "intentionally structured" their businesses to avoid liability and maximize profitability. "Businesses that intentionally facilitate massive piracy should not be able to evade responsibility for their action," says RIAA chairman/CEO Hilary Rosen.

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