Grokster was a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software that allowed users to share digital files, typically music and video, over the internet. It was similar to other popular P2P applications like Napster and LimeWire. However, Grokster ceased operations in 2005 after a legal ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, which held the company liable for copyright infringement by its users.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Grokster” would be: /ˈɡrɒkstər/ (Using the International Phonetic Alphabet – IPA)In a more casual description: GRAHK-stuhr

Key Takeaways

  1. Grokster was a popular peer-to-peer file-sharing service that facilitated copyright infringement through its software, leading to a landmark lawsuit, MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd.
  2. In 2005, the US Supreme Court ruled against Grokster, establishing the precedent that companies can be held liable for inducing users to commit copyright infringement, even if the technology itself has legitimate uses.
  3. As a result of the ruling, Grokster ceased operations in 2005, and the case has become a cornerstone in discussions about secondary liability for copyright infringement in the digital age.


The technology term “Grokster” is important because it refers to a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software application that played a significant role in the copyright infringement debate during the early 2000s. Grokster allowed users to share music, videos, and other digital files, leading to widespread unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials.

The landmark legal case, MGM Studios Inc. v.

Grokster Ltd., in which the United States Supreme Court ruled against Grokster in 2005, became a milestone in the realm of intellectual property law. This decision established that companies could be held liable for promoting copyright infringement if their product or service is intentionally designed to encourage such activities.

As a result, the Grokster case not only led to the eventual shutdown of several P2P file-sharing services but also prompted further advancements in the development and enforcement of digital copyright protection.


Grokster was a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing service that played a significant role in the digital world during the early 2000s. It was among the pioneers of decentralized P2P technology, providing users with an innovative platform for sharing files, such as music, movies, and various types of content. The primary purpose of Grokster was to enable individuals to search and access files on other users’ computers, facilitating the quick and seamless transfer of large amounts of data.

This technology gained immense popularity as it empowered people to share and access massive repositories of multimedia content without relying on a centralized server. However, Grokster’s extensive usage by individuals for sharing copyrighted material attracted considerable legal attention. Their technology inadvertently enabled users to engage in illicit file sharing and distribution, raising serious concerns over piracy and the violation of intellectual property rights.

As a result, Grokster faced several legal battles, including a landmark Supreme Court case, MGM Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., which ultimately led to its shutdown in 2005.

The case set a precedent by holding P2P service providers liable for facilitating the infringement of copyrighted content. Despite its controversial history, Grokster played a prominent role in shaping the P2P landscape and set the stage for further developments in digital file-sharing technology.

Examples of Grokster

Three real-world examples of Grokster technology are:

Grokster’s Involvement in the MGM vs. Grokster Case:In 2005, Grokster was involved in a famous legal case titled “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) vs. Grokster Ltd.” Grokster, a peer-to-peer file-sharing software company, was sued by MGM and other media companies for copyright infringement. The case went to the US Supreme Court, and it was ruled that Grokster and other P2P file-sharing companies were indeed liable for the copyright infringement of their users. This decision significantly impacted the development and use of P2P technologies for sharing copyrighted materials.

Music and Movie Piracy:Grokster was widely used for sharing music and movie files across the internet in the early 2000s. Users across the globe took advantage of this technology to download copyrighted materials without permission or payment. This widespread activity contributed to increased piracy concerns and eventually led to the introduction of new legal and technological measures to protect intellectual properties within the entertainment industry.

Influence on the Development and Adoption of Legal Streaming Services:The Grokster technology and the resultant legal cases it faced significantly impacted the future of media distribution. With the crackdown on file sharing and copyright infringement lawsuits, legal streaming services like Netflix, Spotify, and Apple Music emerged as alternatives that offered legitimate access to copyrighted materials. This shift not only gave users access to expansive libraries of content but also provided artists and creators with a way to monetize and protect their work.

Grokster FAQ

What is Grokster?

Grokster was a peer-to-peer file-sharing program that allowed users to exchange digital files, such as music, videos, and documents, over the internet. It was based on the FastTrack protocol and was popular in the early 2000s.

What happened to Grokster?

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled against Grokster in the case of MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., concluding that Grokster was guilty of inducing copyright infringement. Following the ruling, Grokster ceased its operations and shut down its website.

Was Grokster legal?

Although the concept of peer-to-peer file sharing is not illegal, Grokster was deemed to be promoting copyright infringement by enabling users to share copyrighted materials without authorization. As a result, the US Supreme Court ruled against Grokster, making its operations illegal.

What was the impact of the Grokster case on file-sharing services?

The Grokster case had a significant impact on the file-sharing industry as it set a legal precedent regarding copyright infringement. After the ruling, many file-sharing services implemented measures to ensure they were not facilitating copyright infringement to avoid facing similar legal consequences.

Are there any alternatives to Grokster today?

Yes, there are several legal alternatives to Grokster available today. Some popular services include Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music for music streaming, and Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video for video streaming. These platforms offer licensed content and comply with copyright regulations.

Related Technology Terms

  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Networks
  • File Sharing
  • Copyright Infringement
  • MGM vs. Grokster
  • Decentralized Distribution

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