Grokster and the Future of the Net

The Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the Grokster litigation on March 29. The case deals directly with the legality of distributed peer-to-peer file-shsaring services, but its ramifications could go much further. Like the landmark 1997 case striking down the Communications Decency Act, the Grokster decision could be a bellweather for Internet freedom… or it could push the Net down a much less open, less innovative, less dynamic, and less valuable path.

Several amicus briefs were just filed in the case. Ed Felten gives a good summary of what’s wrong the with anti-P2P view:

“These briefs are caught between nostalgia for a past that never existed, and false hope for future technologies that won’t do the job.”

Like it or not, much more than the future of the music industry is at stake here. In fact, business models for recorded music are are among the least likely things to change depending on how Grokster comes out. The P2P horse is out of the barn, but so is the licensed digital music horse, thanks to iTunes, Real Rhapsody, Mercora, and other innovators. I’m much more worried about what the case might mean for the Net as a whole.