The decision elicited varying opinions from independent sector.
Don’t look for consensus among America’s independent labels when it comes to today’s Grokster decision.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against peer-to-peer network Grokster, favoring the entertainment industry’s position that P2P companies can be held liable for infringing uses of their technology.
The decision has elicited varying opinions from the independent sector. Don Rose, chairman of the recently formed American Assn. of Independent Music, says the trade body is declining to comment on the Grokster case for this very reason.
Many indie execs view the file-sharing services as valuable promotional tools. Dean Hudson, new media director of Seattle-based Sub Pop Records, confessed a personal affinity for Grokster, adding, “it’s different for us than it is for the majors. We don’t actively try to thwart people from file sharing. We don’t necessarily embrace it, but we don’t try to stop people from doing it.”
Larry Miller, CEO of Or Music and former president of digital rights management company Reciprocal Entertainment, took a more hard-line stance and was hopeful the decision would bring peer-to-peer networks and labels closer together. “I think it’s easily the most important Supreme Court decision to affect the record industry in the last decade,” Miller says. “As the operator of an independent and independently funded record company, this decision doesn’t dramatically affect what we do, but I think the decision should reverberate for a long time to come, for record companies large and small.”
Miller continues, “I hope that what we do now as an industry is move forward and bring whatever leverage we possibly can to the operators of the peer-to-peer networks … to use the filtering technologies, while imperfect, that are available.”
Jeff Price, SpinArt founder and a former senior director of business development at eMusic, is opposed to the free distribution of his music via Grokster. However, he says the issue is larger than this court case, and points to a lack of education among consumers.
“In the ‘80s, the RIAA embarked on a campaign to teach people that music was the best value for their money,” he says. “These days, they haven’t spent an iota of money educating people as to what this industry is and how it works and how these companies are killing us. In the end, it will cause the destruction of the very things [music fans] love. If people are getting the product for free, and we’re not being compensated, the product will eventually stop being produced because we cannot survive.”
Thrill Jockey Records founder Bettina Richards took the opposite view. “We do not think peer-to-peer file sharing is killing our music sales,” she says. "With fairly restrictive outlets for new music, peer-to-peer sharing is one of the best ways to get the word around to music fans. We find that most file sharing happens between music fans and they tend to buy a healthy percentage … The major corporations are welcome to squander their resources going after these companies — we will spend ours on our artists.”
* The Supreme Court's rules in favor of the entertainment industry.
* Read Billboard Legal Editor Susan Butler's case summary here.
* Tech companies respond.
* International trade groups salute decision.
* Read early responses from trade groups, congressional leaders and other interested parties.
* Read the Syllabus of the opinion.
* Check back for updates on this story.