28 — 29 March 2005
During my first tour of duty at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 2003 — June 2006, EFF argued MGM v. Grokster at the 9th Circuit and again at the Supreme Court. (For more details see this older page.) Although EFF won the case handily at the 9th, the Supremes pummeled the argument.
To see the argument, a bunch of us camped out on the sidewalk all night so that we could be more likely to get a seat inside in the morning. As it happened, we all got in, but just barely!
Here are some pics from the night of, and some from the morning. My favorite part of the proceedings was when Seth and Annalee managed to get Jack Valenti to autograph a Betamax tape — a technology he fought hard to kill. He was a good sport about it though, and we had a good laugh!
Update from older me: These days (November 2014), I feel very differently about these issues than I did at the time. Although we were right to reject the idea that the entertainment industry should get to issue mandates to the technology industry, and I’m sad that the case lost 9 to 0 in the Supreme Court, the technology industry has effectively cannibalized the music industry. For the most part, that seems to have been an unintended consequence; but it is a consequence the technology industry and its advocates still have not dealt with either technically, morally, ethically, or business-wise.
Technologists can no longer claim to be inventing freely and that we should see where the chips fall and it’ll probably turn out great for artists and don’t worry everything’s cool man. We now know that real musicians are really losing real income while others extract value from their music.
I do still believe that Fred basically had it right in his 2008 paper, “A Better Way Forward”. Everyone would be better off in a world of voluntary collective licensing.