The Internet Arrives at the Supreme Court (Again)

The U.S. Supreme Court will help decide how content providers will operate on the Internet. The first case, involving more than 20 entertainment companies with names like Viacom, Disney and Time Warner, involves the sharing of content such as movies, videos and music by computer users who download the content from the Internet. This case involves the issue of whether copyrighted material can be shared by users on peer-to-peer networks and, if the court follows the reasoning in the Betamax case which was decided back in 1984, there is a chance the court will decide that because these networks have substantial non-infringing uses, the network operators cannot be held liable for contributory infringement based on the conduct of individuals who use the network. Stay tuned—film at 11:00!!

The Supreme Court is also deciding a ‘gatekeeper’ case related to broadband service delivery by cable operators. Today, cable operators control the broadband portal or gateway that customers can use, and while a user can go through the portal and log on to another website (say Yahoo! or AOL), they still must first go through the cable provider’s designated broadband operator. The case coming up challenges that gatekeeping role and seeks to require cable operators to give consumers the right to pick the broadband connection they wish to have through the cable. We will keep you posted as developments unfold.