Several US web and media industry groups have filed separate legal briefs slamming last month's court verdict that controversial music file sharing site Napster is liable for copyright violation.
The groups argue that the verdict could threaten the future of much of the hi-tech industry and diminish consumers' fair use rights, putting new media technology developers at risk of a barrage of copyright infringement litigation.
US District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel last month sided with the recording industry and ruled that Napster's service contributed to the violation of copyrighted material by its members. Judge Patel issued an injunction requiring Napster to remove all copyrighted material from its website.
Jeff Joseph, vice president of communications at the Computer Electronics Association (CEA), one of the industry groups that filed briefs on Friday, said: "Our primary concern is something bigger than Napster - it's about the First Amendment in the digital age and the ability of content providers to shut down new technologies."
In its filing, the CEA claims that the court ignored advice from the US Supreme Court that judges should not expand copyright protections without explicit legislative guidance when major technological innovations are involved.
As well as the brief filed by the CEA, which represents members including Sony Electronics, Compaq and Intel, filings were also made by the Digital Media Association, which acts for companies involved in digital music distribution, and NetCoalition, which numbers Lycos, Yahoo and Amazon as members. However, the groups were careful not to align themselves with any side in the Napster case.
Separately, another coalition of companies, including the Ad Hoc Copyright Coalition, the US Internet Industry Association, the US Telephone Association and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, also took issue with a different section of the ruling.
It raised concerns about Judge Patel's reasoning in determining whether the Digital Millennium Copyright Act would protect Napster from liability because of the company's role as a service provider. The group said it believed the judge misconstrued copyright law.
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