CBS Interactive is arguing against an injunction that would prohibit subsidiary CNET from encouraging the public to download bittorrent P2P technology through links and editorial articles.
The move comes in the midst of litigation brought by more than a dozen R&B and hip hop artists who charge CBSI with inducing piracy by pointing consumers to file-sharing software and instructing them on how to violate copyrights. Last July, a federal judge allowed the claims to proceed, and in November, the plaintiffs requested a preliminary injunction.
On Friday, CBSI responded with a 25-page memorandum that opposes the injunction, saying in court papers, "Any suggestion that reporting on the distribution of authorized, non-infringing music through the BitTorrent protocol evidences intent to induce infringement is simply absurd."
In papers lodged in court on Friday, CBSI argues that an injunction prohibiting access or information about file-sharing technology would do no good.
"The injunction Plaintiffs seek would substantially damage CBSI's business of providing a comprehensive index of software applications and editorial information about them," the company's lawyers write. "By contrast, the injunction would not prevent either downloads of BitTorrent client software, or potential infringement of Plaintiffs' works. If CBSI were enjoined from linking to sites that offer downloads of BitTorrent clients, those sites would still remain available to the public and would still be easily found by a simple search on Google -- albeit without the warning against infringement that CBSI provides."
The company continues, "Moreover, the public interest would be damaged by denying legitimate and truthful information about a pervasive technology, as well as by impending non-infriging uses."
In the papers, CBSI also says that the plaintiffs haven't shown ownership of works, have failed to demonstrate irreparable harm and that "vague and broad requests for injunctive relief aimed targeting speech or the press raise serious First Amendment issues."
The arguments come on the heels of significant attention paid these past few weeks to CBS' decision to prohibit CNET from publishing reviews of technologies like Dish Network's AutoHopper and Aereo's TV streaming device that are involved in pending litigation with CBS.
Although the matters are separate, we do see some provocative questions for consideration: What's the legal ramification for exercising corporate discretion not to run editorial reviews of certain technologies but not others? Was the review policy promulgated in a desire not to promote these services -- possibly an endorsement of the viewpoint that editorial commentary can influence copyright infringement -- or was it designed to avoid articles that might show up in court and embarrass CBS?
We reached out to CBS for more clarity on the rationale behind its recent CNET reviews policy, and here's the answer we got from a CBS spokesperson in response:
"CNET is not going to give an award or any other validation to a Product which CBS is challenging as illegal, other Networks believe to be illegal and one court has already found to violate the copyright act in its application. Beyond that, CNET will cover every other product and service on the planet."
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