After the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the entertainment industry in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios vs. Grokster on June 27, Sony BMG Music Entertainment CEO Andrew Lack shared his thoughts with <i>Bill
After the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the entertainment industry in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios vs. Grokster on June 27, Sony BMG Music Entertainment CEO Andrew Lack shared his thoughts with Billboard/ELW. The following is an edited version of the interview.
What was your first thought when you heard about the decision?
Those two words -- unanimous and clear. There was no parsing of words. My favorite phrase was in Justice Breyer's concurring opinion, that this is "garden variety theft."
"Thou shalt not steal," the seventh commandment, punched through today. And so unequivocally.
I must say, I think on the technology side as well as on the content side, the concern was that [the written opinion] would not be this straightforward. Then there would be spinning on both sides: "Well, you have to interpret it this way," and "You have to interpret it that way." That potential debate has been preempted by this court.
I must say I am very pleased about that, and very appreciative.
Do you think there will be a legislative response?
It's hard to say at this point. But [the legislators will] certainly read the opinion and find a Supreme Court that was very straightforward.
There has been a misconception that the Grokster case was about content versus technology. It is not. And this court makes that clear.
No one on either side of [that] equation wanted to see artists penalized by some new technology that was blatantly undermining their good work. No artist, no content provider, wanted to stall out new technologies or innovative technologies like the iPod, or [prevent] Apple from bringing great new products to the marketplace.
I think now, if you're a business, you look at Apple and you know exactly what is right, strong, smart and innovative. You look at Grokster, and you and see a ruse. It's designed and constructed to steal. And the court just said, "I don't see how there can be any confusion about that."
There are many new technologies that have been developed by the Sean Fannings, the Audible Magics, for example, in the music space which can now be employed.
I don't think anyone ever questioned Apple's intentions from day one. And I always felt the argument got muddied by the lawyers on the technology side. I must say the CEOs on the technology side that I engaged with always said to me, "Grokster is bad. Grokster is wrong. Grokster's got to go."
There will be lots of different approaches, I hope -- and different ones coming from, I hope, the Morpheuses and the E-Donkeys.
Now that there is some clarity, the next step could be educating the public. The RIAA and the Justice Department have begun an educational process. Have there been thoughts from your company about getting involved in that process?
Yes, I feel very strongly about the educational aspect. Indeed, I have always felt that the RIAA lawsuits were always much more about education than litigation. And I believe that you're going to see people -- for the first time now in much larger numbers -- understand what's right and what's wrong.
[There has been confusion] -- it's been a mess for the last couple years. I think today the Supreme Court did what the most important court in the land is supposed to do: clear it up! Make it clear to folks.
And not only did they clear it up -- this is what I said is so striking -- they cleared it up unanimously.
There are a lot people who believe that this court hasn't been able to agree on "What's for lunch today?" The fact that these nine justices, so unequivocally, could be so straightforward about this decision would, I hope for the Grokster-like services of the world, [make them] "get it."
I think many of us on the creative side have known -- have hoped -- that this day would come.
I do believe, and you pointed out, that that Ninth Circuit was really the decision [where] the court [essentially] said, "Go sue individuals. That's the route we want you to take until the Supreme Court clarifies it." And so I think now, today, the Supreme Court's clarity may make these lawsuits, I hope, a year from now or two years from now, a thing of the past because people will know better -- kids will know better.
If the Justice Department, with their plans on the educational outreach to kids, starts approaching the labels and the movie studios to help them get these educational efforts together, would that be something that you're open to?
Totally open and supportive of it.