In a unanimous 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that file sharing networks are liable for their users' copyright infringement.
Overturning a 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruling that affirmed such companies as Grokster, Morpheus and KaZaA are not liable of infringement by third parties, the recent decision, in MGM vs. Grokster, was applauded by entertainment companies including the Gospel Music Association (GMA).
"The gospel music community joins the rest of the music industry in thanking the Supreme Court for its thoughtful, and we believe, correct decision," said GMA President, John W. Styll. "Today, gospel music artists and everyone making its livelihood in our industry rests easier, knowing that we can continue to create uplifting and edifying music knowing the highest court in our land has declared 'thou shalt not steal.'"
The court ruled to return the case to a lower court which must now prove they did not promote copyright infringement.
Lawsuits had been filed against file sharers last April by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The GMA has been part of the unprecedented coalition of movie and music organizations through the RIAA and the Motion Picture Association of America to overturn the lower court ruling for the protection of private property, including intellectual property.
"We will continue our David vs. Goliath fight to prove that we operate 100 percent on the right side of the law," said Michael Weiss, the CEO of StreamCast Networks' Morpheus, one of the major file-sharing programs identified in the lawsuit.
Along with executives of the entertainment industry, many Christian artists also praised the Supreme Court decision.
Steven Curtis Chapman (Sparrow Records): "Hopefully, this ruling is the beginning of the end of the rapid growth of illegal downloading. It's often forgotten that there are so many people who are affected by this issue from tour bus drivers to music retailer sales clerks to aspiring young artists. These new artists may never have a chance to be heard if this problem isn't addressed. The music community needs to continue to stand together to share the gift of music and to also promote traditional and newer technologies that can get music properly to fans."
Jason Crabb of the Crabb Family (Daywind Records): "I commend the Supreme Court on their stand to protect individuals who draw their income from the music and film industry with today's ruling. I pray the world takes time to educate themselves on the subject of 'file sharing' and the depth of its effect on the world of music. Most people think when they 'file share' it only takes the standard $15 out of the Crabb Family's pocket, but they don't think about my father, who mainly writes our songs, our mother, our wives, our husbands, our children, the dedicated friends who run our office, our bus driver, and so on. This is our life, as well as our livelihood."
Bart Millard of MercyMe (INO Records): "I think it is a great victory for the music industry, but ultimately a huge victory for fans of music. To have both sides striving to find a way to get music into the hands of the fan while still allowing people to make a living can only mean good things for the consumer."
Nichole Nordeman (Sparrow Records): "The Supreme Court has given a voice to countless individuals like me who make their living in the creative arts, and are constantly jeopardized by the epidemic of illegal downloading. Their decision is an important victory for us ... and a clear warning for many others."
TobyMac (ForeFront Records): "This is a big victory for young artists that are coming up. It is getting harder and harder to break new artists and without decisions like this that protect them, we may lose some of the artistic voices of the next generation."
The GMA has supported music industry efforts against music piracy and has its own campaign, "Millions of Wrongs Don't Make It Right," (www.millionsofwrongs.org) targetting Christian music buyers.
Last year, the GMA and Barna Research Group reported on a study which revealed that 80 percent of Christian teens were involved in illegal downloading and copying music.