INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION AND THE GROKSTER DECISION -- (House of Representatives - June 27, 2005)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, today the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous 9-0 decision, held that peer-to-peer file-swapping companies can be held liable if they promote the use of their sites to infringe copyright. The Grokster decision is a victory for all law-abiding Americans, especially the hardworking and talented individuals that make up our creative industries.
I am pleased that the Supreme Court struck the right balance between the protection of intellectual property and the desire to provide consumers with easy and lawful access to movies, music, and other content. Impressive advances in technology in recent years have produced a host of new and exciting avenues for consumers to access music and other content online. These new technologies, however, have also bred a culture of rampant pirating on the Internet.
Grokster and other peer-to-peer networks have become bastions of illegal activity, providing safe havens for pirates to swap copied versions of copyrighted material without paying a cent. Every day, millions of copyrighted protected movies, songs, computer games, and other pieces of intellectual property are stolen over peer-to-peer networks.
The statistics speak for themselves. Over 90 percent of the file-sharing activity on Grokster is illegal copyright infringement. Of the music files available online, 99 percent are unauthorized, leading to a substantial drop in shipments of music to retailers.
In the last year alone, the number of feature films posted on file-sharing sites more than doubled to 44 million. Some estimates show that as many as 400,000 movies have been downloaded in one day alone.
Last month, it took just a few hours after the latest Star Wars movie opened in theaters for a copy to show up online on a file-sharing site. While so many Americans flocked to movie theaters across the country with their children and families to see the latest episode of this great Hollywood franchise, millions had access to an unauthorized copy of the film online, free for theft and the taking.
Our Nation's economy and creative industries that employ over 5 million Americans suffer a huge blow from the billions of dollars lost annually through illegal downloading. These networks that actively promote illegal activity continue to pose a serious threat to the livelihood of copyright creators and artists, many of whom live in my district.
One of our country's greatest exports, indeed the only area where we have a positive balance of trade with every Nation on earth, is in the area of creative content and our intellectual property, which is derived from the hard work of song writers, technicians, artists, programmers, musicians, independent filmmakers and scores of others who make their living from the lawful sale of these items.
The Supreme Court decision today strikes the right balance by protecting copyright holders from such illegal activity and promoting legal avenues for downloading movies, music, and other works by consumers.
Very simply, the Court decision today codifies an age-old principle: that one man should not profit from the fruit of another man's labor.
As the Court noted, their decision leaves breathing room for innovation, and a vigorous commerce and does nothing to compromise the legitimate commerce or discourage innovation having a lawful purpose.
Today's ruling upholds the principle that technology must and should advance, but not without respecting copyright law. Just moments after today's decision, a new legal peer-to-peer model was unveiled that will incorporate many user benefits common to the peer-to-peer file-sharing experience, and a number of sites have already been launched that offer Internet music downloads at affordable prices without infringing on copyright laws. These positive efforts provide a victory for both consumers and artists.
Today's decision will further encourage and spur even more technological innovation. As a result, consumers will be the ultimate winners as they will have more access to high-quality music, film, and other content on the Internet and elsewhere.