Well…ain’t that some shit

Regarding Grokster:

“We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,” Justice Souter wrote.

Regarding guns:

Senate Republicans on Tuesday moved the National Rifle Association’s top priority ahead of a $491 billion defense bill, setting up a vote on legislation to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits over gun crimes.

“The president believes that the manufacturer of a legal product should not be held liable for the criminal misuse of that product by others,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

[Senator Larry] Craig said such lawsuits are “predatory and aimed at bankrupting the firearms industry,” unfairly blaming dealers and manufacturers for the crimes of gun users.

[thanks boingboing]

7 thoughts on “Well…ain’t that some shit

  1. urbrotha

    I am surprised that they changed the priority of this gun legislation over the defense bill. However, I don’t know whether you agree or disagree with the bolded statement about guns. To me it seems pretty obvious, that it is always that criminal who is responsible for shooting, not the gun company. I think that the only reason guns are the responsible for the most injuries/deaths is because they are the most prominent weapon. If guns were outlawed, then there would be a rise on injuries caused by knife or clubs. (there may not be a proportionate rise in deaths from knifes, but only because it is harder to kill with a knife).

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  2. Ben Murphy Post author

    I agree, but thats not the point of the post.

    The point is that in one instance (file sharing software) the company producing the product was found responsible for what consumer does with it privately. This seems to be in almost direct conflict with the idea that the company producing a gun is in no way responsible for what the consumer does with it.

    While it is true that most people use the software to steal copywrited material, surely that isn’t its only use and it is defenitely not what it is advertised as being used for. It is called a ‘file sharing’ program, not a ‘copywrited material stealing’ program. The same applies to guns, except for the fact that guns were invented to kill, maybe not humans specifically – I haven’t brushed up on my history of guns lately – but there can be no argument that they are primarily used to kill other humans (not necesarrily illegally – think military).

    So why then is grokster responsible, but not smith & wesson? $$ – Corportate interest in grokster’s case wins out over jurisprudence. If you like that guns around around and pretty freely available, which I do, then this decision about grokster is a little scary. Think about things other than guns that might be mis-used for an un-intentional illegal purpose. DVD burners, VCRs, blank CDs & DVDs, MP3 players, computers in general, the TVs used to watch stolen material…everytime you speed in your car. Not saying that the courts are going to go and penalize every company who’s products are mis-used, but then again, they’ve just started.

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  3. bill

    I completely agree mike… Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. Companies producing file sharing programs are in no way responsible for how the end user ultimately uses the product. Much like this thing with guns. Why is it different in law but the same in theory. I do not understand. It is a conundrum really. Its like I can take a mcdonalds fork, sharpen the crap out of it and really kill someone with it, can someone sue mcdonalds because i sharpened down their fork and used it okill someone. (Actually someone probably COULD sue for that in this day and age)

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  4. urbrotha

    Ah, thanks for the clarification.

    I agree with the statement then. However, what sunk Grokster was an internal memo that it encouraged its users to use it to steal music. The lawsuit made a distinction between a company’s product being used primarily for illegal use and the company knowing it (even encouraging it) and the company’s product mainly being used for legal things and only partly being used for illegal things. The suit cited the lawsuit of Universal Studios against Sony for making VCR’s because people could use VCR’s to record movies. Sony won because the primary use was for watchin movies. Whereas Grokster, Kazaa and Slipstream(?) all use the same root software and promoted themselves as the “Next Napster”. The case also said that if the companies knew of parties who were breaking the law and did nothing to stop them (like revoking their use of the tool or preventing files they knew were pirated from being exchanged) then they were liable.

    Though, this may be were the gun company is able to use ignorance more effectively (how can you know if a person intends to buy a gun to kill someone, or even if that gun is used by someone other than its owner to kill someone?), the gun companies could be more dilligent in selling gun locks and supporting background checks. But, as Napster said in an interanal memo (I’m paraphrasing) “we need to NOT know our users names and IP addresses because we know that they are pirating music”, if the gun companies apply the same philosophy, then perhaps they also should be held more accountable for who is harmed by a gun.

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  5. Ben Murphy Post author

    What about car companies that make cars that can easily exceed any posted speed limit! Please don’t call me a pirate, i prefer Buccaneer-American. Aaaarrrgggh!

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