June 1, 2003 · Lessig
This is an important week. Monday, the FCC rules on its mediacon rules. Monday could also be the day the Supreme Court decides the Dastar case. But most important of all: Wednesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hears the Aimster case.
EFF has written an amicus in the case (have you contributed yet?). EFF’s core argument is that it is time that a Court of Appeals properly interpret the Sony Betamax case. Of all the Courts of Appeals in the US, this is the best one to hear this issue. (Bias-meter reading: high. I clerked at that court). Let’s hope it hears it well.
This has been an issue close to my own heart. The best thing about Sony is that it recognized the harm that legal uncertainty can impose upon innovation. If innovators have to guess how a federal court will balance the effects of its technology upon copyright interests, then there will be less innovation. Thus the genius of its rule was that it said essentially this: if your technology is “capable” of a “substantial noninfringing use,” then the question of whether your technology should be permitted is no longer a judicial question. If it is capable of a substanial noninfringing use, then the question of balancing (which is always at the core of copyright) is left up to Congress.
The judges don’t get announced in a case in the 7th Circuit before the argument, so we can’t know who will hear the case. But if you’re anywhere close to Chicago, you should go see the argument. It is said that Aimee Deep will be there. But whether true or not, the freedom of that spirit will at least have a chance in Chicago.