Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd.
545 U.S. 913 (2005)
Grokster wrote a computer
program that people could download for free. The program let the users
copy files of one-another's computers.
Almost, if not all, of the
files people were copying were copyrighted music files.
Grokster did not control the
files, never had any resident on any of their computers, and did not
centralize any lists of where the files were.
Music publishers, led my MGM,
sued Grokster for contributory copyright infringement.
The Trial Court found for
Grokster. MGM appealed.
The Trial Court looked to Sony
Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc.
(464 U.S. 417 (1984)), and found that since Grokster's program could be
used to trade non-infringing files (like works without copyright or those
under Creative Commons license), Grokster was not a contributory
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found
that there was little to no evidence that Grokster was being used for
non-infringing purposes. Therefore it fails the test established by Sony.
The Court found that
Grokster had actively encouraged people to use the program to make copies
of copyrighted music.
Aka inducement intent.
There were two concurrences:
In one concurrence it was
argued that the percentage of non-infringing files being shared on
Grokster was roughly approximate to those at issue in Sony. However, Grokster's inducement of its
customers to use the product illegally still made them contributory
In another concurrence, it
was argued that there was not enough evidence of non-infringing uses, so
Grokster was liable under the test established by Sony. Inducement was not an element that needed
to be established.
This decision left in question
what the requirements for being liable for contributory copyright
It could be argued that
there must be a showing that the defendant has actively induced or
Alternately, it could be
argued that the only issue is whether there is substantial non-infringing