Hollywood and Christians have long been at ends - literally book-ending the left and right wings of the political spectrum. However, Christian groups now ironically find themselves fighting side by side with their ideological rivals in a battle against peer to peer software in a case scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 29.
Peer to peer software, known as P2P for short, has inextricably bound itself to young people around the world. In America, the phenomenon came first into the public consciousness with Napster, the paragon of P2P that single-handedly changed the way people download music. At its peak in February 2004, 13.6 million people used the service to swap music - legal and otherwise.
Following Napster's legal demise to the Recording Industry Artists of America, and its court order to shut down in July of 2001, a slew of replacements arose to fill the void. Morpheus, Kazaa, and Bittorrent were some of the programs that came after Napster, each bringing new features to the P2P playing field. With each newer program that was published, more and more files could be traded with greater ease. Today, all types of media, including video and software, are traded through P2P channels.
The ease with which digital content can be traded, resulting in loss of revenue for publishers, has raised the ire of Hollywood. However, social conservatives are also raising concern that minors can easily access pornography through P2P software. Thus, an unlikely alliance has formed at a time when the record industry may have otherwise found itself alone.
"Hollywood is definitely a strange bedfellow to most of us," said Jim Backlin, vice president of legislative affairs for the Christian Coalition of America. "Our goal was to cut down child pornography and other kinds of pornography, and if for some reason we were allied with the Hollywood types this time, so be it."
On the other side, several P2P groups named in the suit are mustering for the showdown. The Supreme Court case stems from an initial suit filed by the MPAA and RIAA against Grokster Inc., which distributes the Grokster P2P software, and StreamCast networks, which runs Morpheus. Lower courts have already ruled that companies are not liable for what users do with their programs - an argument that has historically stood as long as technology can be used for lawful purposes. The Supreme Court will decide whether or not to uphold the ruling of lower courts.
As Hollywood and religions conservatives await the Supreme Court case that could potentially uproot the entire file-sharing landscape, it should be noted that any alliance is likely temporary and ephemeral. Conservative groups hold the media accountable for the abasement of America's morals - through explicit music lyrics to the Janet Jackson breast-baring incident of 2004. The recording industry believes that Christians have nothing but spite for its work. Although the two may join hands in combating P2P, it is likely that the two groups will soon return to an uncongenial normality.