Today, seventeen computer science professors (including me) are filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the Grokster case. Here is the summary of our argument, quoted from the brief:
Amici write to call to the Court’s attention several computer science issues raised by Petitioners [i.e., the movie and music companies] and amici who filed concurrent with Petitioners, and to correct certain of their technical assertions. First, the United States’ description of the Internet’s design is wrong. P2P networks are not new developments in network design, but rather the design on which the Internet itself is based. Second, a P2P network design, where the work is done by the end user’s machine, is preferable to a design which forces work (such as filtering) to be done within the network, because a P2P design can be robust and efficient. Third, because of the difficulty in designing distributed networks, advances in P2P network design – including BitTorrent and Respondents’ [i.e., Grokster’s and Streamcast’s] software – are crucial to developing the next generation of P2P networks, such as the NSF-funded IRIS Project. Fourth, Petitioners’ assertion that filtering software will work fails to consider that users cannot be forced to install the filter, filtering software is unproven or that users will find other ways to defeat the filter. Finally, while Petitioners state that infringers’ anonymity makes legal action difficult, the truth is that Petitioners can obtain IP addresses easily and have filed lawsuits against more than 8,400 alleged infringers. Because Petitioners seek a remedy that will hobble advances in technology, while they have other means to obtain relief for infringement, amici ask the Court to affirm the judgment below.
The seventeen computer science professors are Harold Abelson (MIT), Thomas Anderson (U. Washington), Andrew W. Appel (Princeton), Steven M. Bellovin (Columbia), Dan Boneh (Stanford), David Clark (MIT), David J. Farber (CMU), Joan Feigenbaum (Yale), Edward W. Felten (Princeton), Robert Harper (CMU), M. Frans Kaashoek (MIT), Brian Kernighan (Princeton), Jennifer Rexford (Princeton), John C. Reynolds (CMU), Aviel D. Rubin (Johns Hopkins), Eugene H. Spafford (Purdue), and David S. Touretzky (CMU).
Thanks to our counsel, Jim Tyre and Vicky Hall, for their work in turning a set of ideas and chunks of rough text into a coherent brief.