The Napster and Grokster Cases: Differences and Similarities

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Along with the development of a file format (MP3) to store digital audio recordings, came one of the new millennium’s most continuous debates – peer-to-peer piracy – file sharing. Internet companies such as Napster and Grokster became involved in notable legal cases in regards to copyright laws in cyberspace. These two cases are similar in nature, yet decidedly different. In order to understand the differences and similarities, one should have an understanding of each case as well as the court’s ruling.
According to the text A Gift of Fire, Napster “opened on the Web in 1999 as a service that allowed its users to copy songs in MP3 files from the hard disks of other users” (Baase, 2013, p. 192, Section 4.1.6 Sharing Music: The
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Louis School of Law, “Washington Law Blog”, Case Study: A & M Records v. Napster, Inc., para. 1). Napster did not stay in business long after the higher courts ruling.
This case was quickly followed by another well-know copyright infringement through free software situation. As John Zelezny’s text, Communications Law: Liberties, Restraints, and the Modern Media, notes, “two companies, Grokster and StreamCast Networks, distributed free software that allowed users to share digital files through peer-to-peer networks where personal computers communicated directly with each other and not through a central service” (Communications Law: Liberties, Restraints and the Modern Media, 2011, p. 360).
The entertainment industry expressed its displeasure when Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) and “other film studios, songwriters, music publishers and recording companies filed suit against both Grokster and the StreamCast Network” (Communications Law: Liberties, Restraints and the Modern Media, 2011, p. 360). This landmark case made its way to the hallowed halls of the United States Supreme Court after the higher court granted review of the lower federal courts decision to side with the defendants (Grokster and StreamCast). Thus was born the case MGM v. Grokster, 545 U.S. 913 (2005). The Supreme Court under began hearing arguments in this case in
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