PROPERTY IS THEFT?….Squeezed in between today’s shocking news from the Supreme Court that no one is planning to retire, the justices also managed to hand down a few new decisions on matters of public import. The blogosphere, which generally seems to believe that file sharing companies ought to be wholly immune to the statutes of the United States based on the “insanely great technology” exemption of the 14th amendment, was especially unhappy over the court’s unanimous ruling that file sharing companies can, in fact, be sued if they incite their customers to break the law.

The ruling seems pretty unexceptional to me, though. Here’s the key sentence:

“We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,” Justice David H. Souter wrote for the court.

Italics mine. In any other field, that would be considered a pretty high bar to meet, so I’m not sure what the problem is. If gun manufacturers took out TV ads suggesting that their products could be used to assassinate world leaders, the law would probably take a dim view of that too.

Bottom line: as near as I can tell, all that the Grokster/StreamCast/BitTorrent nitwits need to do is quit yammering excitedly about how great their products are as a way of ripping off The Man. If they just enforce rigid message discipline emphasizing only the legal benefits of their goods, everything will be OK.

And how should they do this? My advice is to hire a few executives from tobacco companies to show them how it’s done. A lot of them are probably looking for work these days, and they know this routine cold.

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