The music industry couldn’t get the courts to silence discussion of peer-to-peer technologies online as a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles denied a preliminary injunction that sought to prevent CBS Interactive and CNET from inducing the public to infringe on copyrights using such information. CNET and CBS Interactive are both online media companies that provide news, articles, blogs, and podcasts on technology.  And they have featured news articles in the past on peer-to-peer technology.

To combat digital piracy of music, the plaintiffs — a group of music recording labels, songwriters and performers — sought an injunction against CNET and CBS Interactive, asserting the duo facilitate copyright infringement through the use of BitTorrent and other similar technologies.

The court rejected this argument, finding that plaintiffs failed to show any likelihood that the online media organizations would be found liable for their continuing activities.  There is evidence showing that the software of BitTorrent and its counterparts can be tapped to infringe copyrights and that many may use them to do so. And while defendants are aware of these facts, to prove inducement of infringement requires more than just knowledge of actual or potential infringement, the court noted.

In Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., the court found that the defendant distributed software allowing the public to share electronic copyrighted files without permission. That fostered infringement and made them liable for third-party file-sharing.

But there is no evidence in the latest case of ongoing distribution of any file-sharing software to promote its use to infringe copyright.  For the parties to be slapped with an injunction, there must be evidence that infringement will occur; the only evidence of inducement that plaintiffs supplied were articles published a decade ago and the court found this insufficient.  The court also saw First Amendment issues, as the articles questioned by plaintiffs appeared to possess legitimate news value and plaintiffs seemed to edge toward silencing public discussion of peer-to-peer technologies.