CNET Doesn’t Have to Ban BitTorrent Clients, Court Rules

CBS and CNET do not have to stop distributing BitTorrent clients and other file-sharing software. A California court has denied the request for a preliminary injunction from a group of artists, who accused the companies of facilitating piracy. According to the judge there is no indication that CBS and CNET will purposefully encourage copyright infringement in the future, and a ban would needlessly silence "public discussion of P2P technologies."

download CBS and CNET have scored an important victory in their ongoing copyright infringement case against a coalition of artists.

The musicians, joined by billionaire Alki David, had requested a preliminary injunction to prevent the media conglomerate from distributing file-sharing software through Download.com.

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

In a ruling this week District Court Judge Dale Fisher denied the preliminary injunction.

In his ruling Judge Fisher explains that the companies are indeed well-aware of the infringing potential of file-sharing clients, but that there is not enough evidence that CBS and CNET will be found liable for their ongoing distribution of this software.

“There is ample evidence of BitTorrent’s – and other P2P software’s – ability to infringe copyrights and that a large number of individuals use the software to infringe. Defendants are clearly aware of both of these facts,” Judge Fisher writes in the memorandum.

“However, inducement of infringement requires more than just knowledge of actual or potential infringement. While there might be some evidence of past inducement of copyright infringement, there is no evidence of any ongoing distribution of any file sharing software ‘with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement’.”

The artists had argued that it is not uncommon to grant an injunction based on wrongful conduct in the past, as their evidence showed. However, Judge Fisher adds that there must be at least some evidence that future infringements may occur.

In his order the judge writes that the “only solid evidence of possible inducement comes from reviews that were published a decade ago.” The more recent articles merely discuss file-sharing issues and don’t include any encouragement of online piracy.

“The other articles cited by Plaintiffs merely discuss P2P issues, including legitimate distribution through P2P, and the various technological and legal issues that have emerged with the technologies. The Court has no reason to believe that Defendants will purposefully encourage copyright infringement now or in the foreseeable future.”

Judge Fisher goes on to note that an injunction is not in the public interest as most of the recent articles are news related. The suggestion that this may facilitate copyright infringement could therefore stifle the discussion on file-sharing issues.

“Most of the articles cited by Plaintiffs are straightforward, legitimate news articles that do not in any way encourage or induce copyright infringement. This suggests that Plaintiffs’ goal goes far beyond stopping actual infringement by Defendants and extends instead to silencing public discussion of P2P technologies,” the Judge writes.

The ruling is a clear win for CBS, and the company refers to it as a “resounding victory.”

“The Court has clearly recognized that none of our ongoing actions encourage or induce copyright infringement. Needless to say, we are very pleased with this resounding victory at this stage, and are fully confident we will similarly prevail on all remaining claims as well,” CBS Interactive’s Rosabel Tao tells TorrentFreak.

The present ruling does not mean that the case is over. For the time being CBS and CNET can continue business as usual, but they still have to defend themselves against the accusations laid out in the original complaint.

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