CBS and CNET Protest Looming BitTorrent Client Ban

CBS and CNET have asked a Californian federal court not to grant a ban on the distribution of file-sharing software through Download.com. They responded to a request for a preliminary injunction from a coalition of artists and billionaire Alki David who claim that CBS induces piracy. According to the media conglomerate this is not the case, and CBS argues that there are many non-infringing uses for BitTorrent.

alki davidLast year, Alki David and a coalition of artists sued CBS and CNET for their role in distributing uTorrent, LimeWire and other P2P software.

The artists claimed that CNET profits heavily from distributing file-sharing software via Download.com, while demonstrating in editorial reviews how these application can be used to download copyright-infringing material.

In the original complaint the artists pointed out several examples where CNET editors posted videos and screenshots of infringing materials. For example, a review of MP3Rocket included a screenshot of pirated songs from Madonna, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Usher, Rihanna and Eminem.

In July this year CBS and CNET responded that the reviews were merely opinions and that being held liable for inducing infringement would amount to a violation of their right to free speech under the First Amendment.

A judge disagreed, ruling that inducement could be considered since Download.com also distributed the software they reviewed.

This prompted Alki David and the artists to move forward and last November they asked the court to issue a sweeping injunction, one that would ban all BitTorrent client downloads from the popular software download portal Download.com.

Late last week CBS and CNET responded to the proposed preliminary injunction, asking the court to deny the plaintiff’s request. The companies use a wide variety of arguments to back up their motion, and among other things they emphasize the legal use of BitTorrent clients.

“BitTorrent is not limited to any particular file type This gives it many significant non-infringing uses—above and beyond the artists who have chosen to release works for free distribution,” they write in their motion.

“Among the many non-profit organizations that use BitTorrent for the distribution of educational content, the TED Conferences make their talks available using BitTorrent, enabling distribution around the world at a low cost and to audiences where censorship restrictions might otherwise hinder dissemination.”

CBS and CNET also bring in several expert witnesses to back up these claims including Glenn Reinman, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California Los Angeles.

Reinman mentions that one of the main benefits of BitTorrent is that it enables freedom of information in regimes where the Internet is censored.

“BitTorrent Technology is a valuable tool to combat censorship by repressive regimes. Repressive countries are able to block access to specific Web sites using firewalls and other technologies. Where information is hosted on a single Web site or server it can be effectively blocked by governments,” he writes in his declaration.

The Professor further sums up the many other legitimate uses of BitTorrent. His list includes software such as Apache, Linux and OpenOffice, large datasets that are shared by researchers, game patches, music and video.

Legal uses aside, CBS and CNET also believe that the basic requirements for proving inducement are absent in this case.

Addressing the copyright infringement claims, CBS and CNET argue that the artists give no solid evidence that the work they own are at stake, or that any direct infringements took place. They further inform the court that they are not hosting any BitTorrent clients, but merely link to it.

It is now up to the judge to decide in whose favor the scale tips and whether CBS and CNET should still be allowed to link to BitTorrent clients and other file-sharing software.

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