EFF to argue that Morpheus has legitimate uses

MusicCity Networks Inc., creator of the popular peer-to-peer file sharing software Morpheus, was set to ask a Los Angeles district court Tuesday to prevent a ban on the software, saying that it has legitimate uses beyond its reputation as a nefarious copyright infringement tool.

"Morpheus is a powerful technology that can be used for lots of different things ... and the benefits of that technology cannot be limited," said Fred von Lohmann, counsel for the defendant and senior intellectual property attorney with the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

MusicCity was sued last Oct. 2 by 28 major entertainment companies who claimed that Morpheus enables users to infringe upon their copyright works.

The defense is arguing, however, that the software can also be used for legitimate peer-to-peer trading of shareware programs as well as music and videos that are authorized to be distributed on the Internet.

Von Lohmann likened the software to a copy machine, saying that although a copy machine can be used to make illegal copies of copyright-protected works, in most cases it is a beneficial technology that's legitimately used.

The defense is basing its motion on a precedent set in the Sony Corp. vs. Universal City Studios case in which the motion picture industry tried to outlaw Sony's Betamax VCRs because they could potentially be used to make illegal copies of movies. In 1984 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, however, that even if some VCR users infringe upon copyrights, that does not justify a ban of the technology.

MusicCity's motion is set to be filed in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, Western Division where the case is being heard.

According to Von Lohmann, the defense has requested a Feb. 25 hearing on the motion.

The entertainment industry's case against MusicCity comes as part of a larger crackdown on peer-to-peer sharing sites that have sprung up in the wake of Napster Inc. Although the renegade song-swapper was knocked offline last year amid copyright infringement complaints, and is now gearing for the launch of its new, legal service, there are still a handful of rebel peer-to-peer programs that are seen as a threat to major copyright holders.

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