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Technology Matters: The Courts, Media Neutrality, and New Technologies

By Deborah Tussey


This article explores the copyright principle of media neutrality in the context of three sets of cases dealing with videogame enhancements, database compilations, and peer-to-peer file sharing. In each set of cases, at least one court produces a judgment which relies heavily on technological distinctions among electronic storage and retrieval systems, in apparent contravention of the media neutrality principle. Media neutrality confers fairly broad authority on courts to extend protection to copyrighted content distributed through new technologies. However, judicial concerns about the relative institutional competencies of Congress and the courts, most clearly expressed in the Sony decision, rightly impose limitations on the courts\u27 authority to expand copyright protection where important countervailing policies are in play. The article proposes that courts employ a balanced analysis which accords like legal treatment to functionally equivalent technologies, requires that doctrine be formulated in technology-neutral terms, and gives greater weight to overarching policies regarding fairness, incentives, and innovation than to technological specifics. In the pending Grokster case, such an approach would suggest that centralized and decentralized file sharing systems should receive like treatment under the law; that the Supreme Court should affirm the traditional, technology neutral \u22knowledge or reason to know\u22 standard for contributory infringement; but that the court should also apply the limiting principles of Sony\u27s staple article of commerce doctrine, weighing the importance of technological innovation against the need for copyright incentives

Topics: White-Smith Music Co. v. Apollo Co., copyright act, Commission on New Technological Uses, Micro Star v. Formgen, Inc., New York Times Co. v. Tasini, A\u26M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc., Midway Mfg. Co. v. Arctic International, Inc., Matthew Bender \u26 Co. v. West Publishing Co., Greenberg v. National Geographic Society, Faulkner v. National Geographic Society, In re Aimster Copyright Litigation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokstser, Ltd., Recording Industry Ass\u27n of American v. Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc., Sony Corp of Am. v. Universal City Studios, Art and Design, Game Design, Intellectual Property Law
Publisher: Digital Commons @ Georgia Law
Year: 2016
OAI identifier: oai:digitalcommons.law.uga.edu:jipl-1340
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