French record labels have received the green light to sue four US-based companies that develop P2P applications, including the BitTorrent client Vuze, Limewire and Morpheus. Shareaza is the fourth application, for which the labels are going after the open source development platform SourceForge.
Société civile des Producteurs de Phonogrammes en France (SPPF), an umbrella group for several record labels in France, claims that the four file-sharing applications facilitate mass copyright infringement. Although the companies (and applications) themselves have nothing to do with copyright infringement, SPPF believes it has a strong case.
The record labels argue that the Vuze and the others are knowingly distributing software with the purpose to permit unauthorized access to copyrighted works. In essence they are saying that everything, or every application which allows a user to share files, will be indeed used for illegal purposes. In contrast, in the US, companies that don’t encourage their users to commit copyright infringement with their applications, are not acting illegally.
SPPF had already sued the various companies and organizations last year, but until now it has been unclear whether the US based companies behind the applications could be prosecuted under French law. A French court has now ruled that this is indeed possible, which means that they can proceed to court.
Recent French legislation which inspired the labels to go after the P2P companies, suggests that all P2P applications must have a feature to block the transfer of unauthorized copyright works. The clients that are sued by SPPF obviously don’t have such a feature. In fact, it is questionable whether it would be technically possible to develop such a filter. Nevertheless, SPPF demands it, and is claiming millions of dollars in damages for lost revenue.
Vuze CEO Gilles BianRosa stated in a response to TorrentFreak, “While we appreciate the intent of the new French law, we believe SPPF’s complaint is misguided. Vuze is dedicated to the distribution of legitimate content using new technology. In that sense, our interests are aligned with the interests of all content owners, including SPPF’s members, against piracy.”
“We are disappointed that SPPF has taken this approach, given that our business is dedicated to the distribution of legitimate content,” BianRosa added. “SPPF’s claims against Vuze are simply wrong. The Vuze business complies fully with both French and American law. The recent ruling of the French Court was solely on a jurisdictional issue, not on any merits, and we believe it is in error.”
Interestingly, SPPF is also going after Sourceforge, the open source development website, because it hosts the P2P application Shareaza. Putting aside the discussion on the responsibilities of application developers for their users activities, the decision to go after SourceForge for hosting a application that can potentially infringe, is stretching credibility beyond all bounds”
Meanwhile, Vuze has appealed the decision. Separately, the company is suing SPPF for defamation based upon several false and harmful statements made by SPPF about Vuze. A different French Court has denied SPPF’s attempt to derail those claims recently , and is allowing the defamation lawsuit to proceed.
If SPPF succeeds in their case against organizations running the four P2P applications, FTP software and Internet browsers might be next, if they don’t go after Ubuntu and other operating systems first. Perhaps it is even better to shut down the Internet entirely.