Peer-to-peer (P2P) is now legal after record labels lost a judgment against Bluster, the “Napster” of Spain. The judgment comes after six years of litigation between Pablo Soto, the developer of Bluster, and record labels.
Sony BMG Music Etertainment, Universal Music Spain, and Warner Music Spain accused Soto of promoting piracy by developing P2P apps Bluster, Piolet, and Manolito. The record labels sought 13 million euros ($18 million) in damages.
“[Soto’s] activity is not only neutral, and perfectly legal, moreover it is protected by article 38 of our Constitution.”
The Madrid Provincial Court ruled in favor of Pablo, arguing that creating a program in which piracy is possible doesn’t mean its intent is to distribute pirated works. P2P has long been criticized for making piracy easy but the technology itself wasn’t created for piracy. P2P is a great way to move large amounts of data in a distributed network.
“[Soto’s] activity is not only neutral, and perfectly legal, moreover it is protected by article 38 of our Constitution,” writes the Court ruling.
The court also recognized that peer-to-peer apps were designed to exchange all types of audio files, even ones that are protected under free licenses. Many companies also distribute their original content using BitTorrent to avoid high bandwidth costs.
User information for P2P apps like Blubster are protected under this ruling as well. Since user information can only be obtained in a criminal case, making P2P apps legal means simply using these apps doesn’t prove piracy.
In the United States, peer-to-peer technologies are completely legal. The precedence was set in 1983 when Sony won a lawsuit against Universal City Studios for its Betamax technology, which allowed people to record copyrighted programming. The court ruled that technologies that allowed users to copy were not inherently illegal, since it can be used in legitimately.
However, that hasn’t stopped record labels in the US from suing P2P programs like Kazaa and Napster out of existence. BitTorrent Inc., the company that developed the popular P2P technology BitTorrent, is trying hard to distance itself from piracy. The company offers artists the ability to bundle their content and engage with their audience the way they want. The company also created BitTorrent Sync, an app that can be used to create your own private and secure cloud.
“Today, with the judgment in hand, we can launch the next generation of Blubster,” wrote Soto in a blog post. The updated app is already live on its site.