Today many of the latest hit songs and movies are a few mouse clicks away on the Internet, and those same justices are being asked to settle a multibillion-dollar dispute about how such items are shared.
Entertainment companies want the court to let them sue the manufacturers of file-sharing software that allows computer users to download music and movies from each other's computers. The companies say such downloads violate copyright protections and amount to stealing.
Lower courts have sided with the software makers, Grokster Inc. and StreamCast Networks, which say their technology should be looked at no differently than a videocassette recorder.
The Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday and will issue a decision before July.