University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review

Document Type



A key feature of an effective copyright system is to provide protection against infringement that is consistent with a copyright's goal: to "promote . . . useful Arts." Thus, for the overall public good, it is vital to achieve a proper balance between protecting authors' works as an incentive to create and the public's interest in accessing both creative works and new technology. The outcome of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd. (Grosker III) and the resulting business and legal developments created ambiguity and doubt regarding potential liability in the copyright system that is having a deleterious effect on technical innovation and investment.

This Note addresses the current confusion surrounding contributing liability for copyright infringement after the Supreme Court's decision in Grokster III and the decision's failure to clarify a split among the circuit courts regarding the application of the safe-harbor defense to contributory liability for copyright infringement adopted in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. Part II of this Note outlines the facts and procedural history; Part III contains the background and historical development of relevant copyright law, with an emphasis on the development of contributory liability, the safe-harbor doctrine adopted in Sony, and the emerging split between the Seventh and Ninth Circuit regarding the interpretation of the Sony doctrine. Part IV analyzes the unanimous opinion of the United State Supreme Court in Grokster III in which the Court adopted an inducement standard for third-party copyright infringement liability, and the conflict between Justice Ginsburg's and Justice Breyer's concurring opinions on the correct interpretation of the Sony doctrine. Part V emphasizes that, without action by Congress or the courts to clarify the boundaries of legal liability, the ambiguity left by the Supreme Court's failure in Grokster III to resolve the split among the circuits regarding the application of Sony will chill technological innovation and investment.