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President Obama to Appoint the Lawyer Who Helped Kill Grokster as Solicitor General

Donald B. Verrilli Jr.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

Hollywood has gotten their guy.

President Barack Obama will reportedly nominate Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. to be solicitor general of the United States. The position is the government's lead advocate in cases that are heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Formerly a senior litigator at Jenner & Block before becoming associate deputy attorney general, Verrilli argued the entertainment industry's position in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2005 Grokster case, which resulted in a unanimous decision that P2P file-sharing companies could be sued for contributory infringement. Verrilli also represented the recording industry in the first case against an individual file-sharer to reach a verdict -- the trial against Jammie Thomas, who was convicted of sharing songs on Kazaa. Later, Verrilli led the team that represented Viacom in its $1 billion lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement on YouTube.

Verrilli has long been an ardent supporter of strong copyright laws.

During the Grokster case, for example, Verrilli directed the court to re-examine its famous Sony Betamax case, which first grappled with "fair use" issues in the technology age. He urged the court to consider that technologies like Grokster could be liable for inducing copyright infringement even if these services had significant non-infringing uses:

"I think what Grokster and StreamCast are arguing is that this Court's decision in Sony stands for the proposition that their massive actual infringement is -- gets a free pass, a perpetual free pass, so long as they can speculate that there are noninfringing uses out there, such as public-domain uses and authorized uses. We don't think that -- that Sony stands for any such proposition."

One thing that remains unclear is how Verrilli will navigate conflicts of interest for his many former entertainment clients.