InternetCases.com Podcast — November 9, 2005

Cindy Cohn Part I

This “special edition” of the InternetCases.com Podcast is the audio from a talk given by Cindy Cohn, the legal director and general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Ms. Cohn spoke to a meeting of the Internet Law Committee of the Intellectual Property Law Association of Chicago (“IPLAC”) on November 4, 2005. Ms. Cohn discussed issues relating to file sharing — in particular, the Grokster decision, as well as actions taken by the entertainment industry against individual file-sharers.

The talk is being presented here at InternetCases.com in two parts. This first part is Ms. Cohn’s main talk. The question and answer sesssion (edited for brevity and understandability) will be posted as Part 2 at a later date.

This was a lunchtime meeting, so please excuse the sound in the backgroud of soda cans opening, and other general sounds such as papers rattling, etc.



Download the podcast

Running time: 34:08
File size: 11.7 MB

Music courtesy of Blandy under a Creative Commons license.

If you enjoy listening to the InternetCases.com Podcast, please vote for it at Podcast Alley.

Peer-to-peer Litigation Summit planned for Chicago on November 3, 2005

If you’re interested in the legal issues surrounding file-sharing in a post-Grokster world, and will be in Chicago on November 3, be sure to attend the First Annual P2P Litigation Summit scheduled to take place at Northwestern University School of Law. Here’s an announcement from attorney Charles Lee Mudd Jr., one of the event’s primary organizers:

On November 3, 2005, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and I (through my firm Privacy Resolutions P.C.) will co-sponsor the First Annual P2P Litigation Summit in Chicago, Illinois at the Northwestern University School of Law. The daylong conference brings together public and private defense attorneys, clients, investigators, advocates, and academics to discuss the latest developments in peer-to-peer litigation. How do the RIAA and MPAA go about identifying plaintiffs? What are the most effective legal strategies and tactics? Is it better to settle immediately, or fight it out in the courts? How is this impacting the individuals sued? What is the role of ISPs in this quagmire? Should Congress step in and, if so, what legislation is needed? Are there other ways to compensate authors for their works?

A complete agenda and registration information can be found at http://www.p2plitigationsummit.com. Registration is $150.00 per person and $40.00 per person for students.

Ninth Circuit affirms $35 million judgment against semiconductor manufacturer

Case is rare appellate decision under Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984

Altera Corporation filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Clear Logic, Inc., a competitor in the semiconductor industry. Altera alleged that Clear Logic had violated the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984, 17 U.S.C. §901 et seq. (“SCPA”), by using the bitstream generated when programming Altera programmable logic devices to create application-specific integrated circuits. A jury found in favor of Altera, and awarded more than $30 million in damages, plus an additional $5 million in interest and costs.

Clear Logic appealed to the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the trial court improperly instructed the jury regarding the affirmative defense of legitimate reverse engineering, which is provided for under the SCPA. The court affirmed, however, holding that certain misstatements of the law in the jury instructions were harmless error.

The trial court’s instructions initially defined “legitimate reverse engineering” to allow copying and analyzing only “non-protectible concepts or techniques” embodied in a mask work. This was an incorrect statement of the law, but the court concluded that further instructions adequately provided correction. The later instructions explained that “it is permissible [under the SCPA] to reproduce ‘a registered mask work’ as a step in the process of creating an original chip, so long as the purpose of reproducing the chip is appropriate.”

Accordingly, the court held that the jury was able to properly conclude that the Clear Logic mask works incorporated into the application-specific integrated circuits were not original, but were copies prohibited under the SCPA.

Altera Corporation v. Clear Logic, Inc., — F.3d —, 2005 WL 2233252 (9th Cir., September 15, 2005).

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and the law of the Internet

John Roberts, President Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court has only been on the bench since 2003, when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In that time, it does not appear that Judge Roberts authored any opinions dealing squarely with what most would consider “Internet law.”

Roberts was on the panel of judges (but not the author of the opinion) in the case of Recording Indus. Assn. of America, Inc. v. Verizon, 351 F.3d 1229 (D.C.Cir., 2003), which garnered a significant amount of attention upon its pronouncement. In that case, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the district court which had denied Verizon’s motion to quash subpoenas issued by the RIAA. The RIAA had issued such subpoenas pursuant to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), seeking to learn the identity of accused file sharers.

The court held that under the DMCA, a subpoena could issue only to Internet service providers that actually stored infringing material on their servers. Because Verizon was acting as a mere “conduit” for data transferred between Internet users, the subpoenas should not have issued.

Of course, the Grokster opinion has changed the overall landscape of potential liability for copyright infringement over peer-to-peer networks. The author of this weblog will defer to more knowledgeable sources rather than speculate on how a Supreme Court Justice Roberts would rule on such a matter.

Web content producer awarded hefty amount for unauthorized use of photographs

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has entered judgment in excess of $175,000 against a defendant accused of copyright infringement and unauthorized commercial use of photographs on the Internet.

Without authorization, defendant Adkins copied and posted over 100 of plaintiff IO Group’s copyrighted images. IO filed suit against Adkins in federal court, alleging violation of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §101 et seq.) and unauthorized commercial use of the photographs in violation of California Civil Code §3344. IO had registered the copyrights in each of the images. It had also obtained releases from each of the models appearing in the photographs, whereby IO became the “exclusive proprietor of the models’ rights of publicity in the photographs.”

Adkins never responded to the summons, and the court entered judgment by default. The court determined that IO had alleged sufficient facts to state claims for copyright infringement and unauthorized commercial use of the photographs.

In awarding damages, the court found that IO was entitled to $1,000 per image as statutory damages for copyright infringement. See, 17 U.S.C. 504(c)(1). The court determined that such an amount was proper given the fact that over 100 images were involved, and that IO had previously taken steps to maintain the value of the photographs by limiting their distribution.

The court awarded $750 per image as damages for violation of California Civil Code §3344(a). It noted that such an award was not duplicative of an award of damages under the Copyright Act, as this portion of the case related to the models’ rights of publicity, not the unauthorized copying of the images. Earlier in the opinion, the court had noted the holding of Downing v. Abercrombie & Fitch, 265 F.3d 994 (9th Cir. 2001), which states that “[a] person’s name or likeness is not a work of authorship within the meaning of [the Copyright Act].”

IO Group, Inc. v. Adkins, 2005 WL 1492381 (N.D. Cal., June 23, 2005).

Dastar case applied to dismiss suit against web developer

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland has dismissed a copyright infringement and Lanham Act suit against a web developer for using in her online portfolio work done for a previous employer. The court held that it was without subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case where the plaintiff had not obtained copyright registrations over the works in issue, and that Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act could not apply to cover an alleged misappropriation of the “idea, concept or communication” embodied in the works at issue.

On January 5, 2005, Robin Euler left her job as a senior graphic and web designer for Mays & Associates (“Mays”), a “Maryland based, full service web and print design, marketing and communications company.” She then set up shop on her own using the name Red Robin Design [www.redrobindesign.com]. On her new company’s website, Euler placed a portfolio of her work, which included websites and print advertisements she had designed while working for Mays.

On February 11, 2005, Mays filed applications with the U.S. Copyright Office, seeking to register its copyrights in the websites and brochures Euler was using in her portfolio. Three days later, Mays filed suit in federal court in Maryland, alleging copyright infringement, unfair competition under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)), and various state law claims. Euler moved to dismiss on the basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The court granted Euler’s motion and dismissed the case.

Euler’s motion was based on two principal arguments: (1) that the court was without subject matter jurisdiction over the copyright claim, as Mays had not yet received registrations at the time of suit, and (2) that Mays’s cause of action under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act was preempted by copyright law as called for in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23, 123 S.Ct. 2041 (2003).

In ruling in favor of Euler’s motion on the subject matter jurisdiction issue, the court held that Section 411 of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 411) requires a plaintiff to have actually received copyright registrations for the works at issue before filing suit. The court looked to the “ordinary, contemporary, and common meaning” of the words in Section 411(a) to determine that Congress intended to require “something more than application for a copyright prior to filing suit.” Because Mays had only applied for copyright protection and had not yet received registrations, the court was without subject matter jurisdiction.

On the Section 43(a) issue, the court held that Euler’s use on the Red Robin site of work she had done while employed by Mays could not constitute a false designation of origin. The court noted that under Dastar, Section 43(a) does not cover “any idea, concept, or communication” embodied in goods (and presumably services) offered for sale. Any misappropriation or other wrongdoing in this context would be covered by copyright law.

Mays & Associates Inc. v. Euler, — F.Supp.2d —, 2005 WL 1172326 (D.Md. May 18, 2005).

Forum selection clause upheld in content scraping case

In the case of Cairo, Inc. v. CrossMedia Services, Inc., decided on April 1, 2005, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has held that although a company using scrapers to gather content from a competitor’s website did not expressly assent to the website’s terms of use, the scrapers’ “repeated and automated” access to the site created imputed assent to the terms of service and the forum selection clause appearing therein.

Both parties to this case operate database-driven websites that users can access to get information about local retail sales. Soon after Cairo launched its site in late 2004, CrossMedia noticed that Cairo was “scraping” content and images from CrossMedia’s sites and implementing that material on Cairo’s sites. Cairo also created “deep links” in its site leading to pages within CrossMedia’s sites. According to CrossMedia, Cairo automatically accessed CrossMedia’s servers thousands of times each month to gather information.

CrossMedia sent a cease and desist letter to Cairo in November 2004. Soon thereafter, without waiting to be sued for infringement, Cairo filed the present case in federal court in California, asking for a declaratory judgment. Cairo sought a determination that, among other things, Cairo’s website did not infringe any of CrossMedia’s copyrights or trademarks.

Cairo is a California company and CrossMedia is located in Chicago. CrossMedia moved to dismiss the action, citing a forum selection clause appearing in the terms of service of its various websites. This forum selection clause stated that “[j]urisdiction for any claims arising under this Agreement shall lie exclusively with the state or federal courts in Chicago, Illinois where CrossMedia has its principal place of business.”

The court sided with CrossMedia by determining that the forum selection clause applied and dismissed the action.

Cairo had argued the action should not be dismissed because it had no agreement with CrossMedia. Cairo contended that it never assented to the websites’ terms of use, thus it was not bound by the forum selection clause.

The court found these arguments unpersuasive. It looked to the decision in Register.com v. Verio, Inc., 356 F.3d 393 (2d Cir. 2004) to determine that “when a benefit is offered subject to stated conditions, and the offeree makes a decision to take the benefit with knowledge of the terms of the offer, the taking constitutes acceptance of the terms, which accordingly become binding on the offeree.” Cairo’s visits to CrossMedia’s sites with knowledge of the terms of use constituted acceptance of the terms.

Similarly, the court rejected Cairo’s argument that the Specht v. Netscape Comm. Corp. case (306 F.3d 17 (2d Cir. 2002)) should apply. In that case, the Second Circuit ruled that a click-wrap agreement did not bind the parties where users had to scroll down their screens without reason to do so in order to see the terms of the agreement. In the present case, the court found that Cairo had imputed knowledge of the terms of use through its “repeated and automated use” of CrossMedia’s sites. “[E]ven accepting Cairo’s allegation that it did not explicitly agree to [CrossMedia]’s Terms of Use, the Court finds that Cairo’s use of [the] web site under circumstances in which Cairo had actual or imputed knowledge of [the] terms effectively binds Cairo to [the] Terms of Use and the forum selection clause therein.”

Cairo, Inc. v. CrossMedia Services, Inc., 2005 WL 756610 (N.D. Cal., April 1, 2005).

See also Dix v. ICT Group, — P.3d —, 2005 WL 372483 (Ct. App. Wash., Feb. 17, 2005).

Web developer gave implied copyright license to clients; court awards summary judgment to defendants in infringement action

In the case of Attig v. DRG, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has held that former clients of a web developer had an implied, nonexclusive copyright license to copy and move to different servers two websites that plaintiff web developer created and hosted for them.

Late in 1999, plaintiff Attig, a website developer, entered into an agreement with defendants to update and host two of defendants’ websites. One of the individual defendants had created the original versions of these sites using a template. Attig agreed to give the sites a “facelift,” add some basic information, and arrange for hosting. Defendants paid each invoice in full for web development services that Attig sent them.

In 2003, the defendants hired a new technology consultant to assist them with their web development matters. During this process, the defendants switched to a different hosting provider. Attig filed suit, claiming that he owned the copyright in the websites, and alleged that the defendants infringed his copyright by moving the sites to a different web server. The defendants moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the defendants’ motion.

Defendants presented several arguments in favor of their motion for summary judgment. Among those arguments was that Attig, in creating and delivering the websites to defendants, granted them an irrevocable, nonexclusive implied license. The court agreed with this argument. The defendants’ conduct in copying the sites do a different server did not exceed this implied license, thus they could not be liable for copyright infringement.

The court noted that “a nonexclusive license arises where the creator of a work, at the defendant’s request, hands it over, intending that the defendant copy and distribute it.” This analysis (according to the Ninth Circuit decision in Effects Associates v. Cohen, 908 F.2d 555 which was relied upon by the court) requires a determination of whether (1) the licensee requests the creation of a work, (2) the licensor makes that particular work and delivers it to the licensee, and (3) the licensor intends that the licensee copy and distribute the work.

The court easily found that the first two prongs of the analysis were met. The third prong required more discussion, but ultimately the court found that Attig had intended that the defendants copy and use the websites. To make this determination, the court looked for guidance in the Southern District of New York case of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings, L.P. v. Vyne Communications, Inc., 2000 WL 502860. Of particular importance in that case was the common sense determination that a customer would not be willing to pay good and valuable consideration for a site that it could not use. In this case, Attig had placed a copyright notice on one of the sites he updated, attributing ownership to the one of the defendants. He also sent correspondence referring to the sites as belonging to defendants. The court found these facts to reveal Attig’s intent regarding ownership.

Attig v. DRG, Inc., 2005 WL 730681 (E.D.Penn., March 30, 2005).

Website not entitled to court finding that future uses of Eminem songs would be fair use

Shady Records, Inc. (“Shady”), filed suit against Source Enterprises, Inc. (“Source”) and others for copyright infringement arising from Source’s publication on its website of various songs by Marshall Mathers III (widely a/k/a “Eminem”). After a long process of litigation leading up to trial, Shady moved to voluntarily dismiss its claims of copyright infringement. Accordingly, the court dismissed the action with prejudice.

While most defendants would be fully satisfied by the plaintiff voluntarily withdrawing its claims and the court dismissing the action with prejudice, Source wanted some extra conditions imposed on the dismissal. One of the requested conditions was for the court to memorialize a finding that Source’s past use of the Eminem songs on its website was fair use. Furthermore, Source asked the court to determine that any future use of the Eminem songs would also constitute fair use.

The court declined to add these extra conditions to the dismissal order. It noted that Source “misconceive[d] the consequences of a successful result in this case.” Questions of fair use are highly fact-intensive, and the court held that “it would, indeed, be highly inappropriate . . to issue an advisory opinion about any particular hypothetical use of the material in the future. . . .” The dismissal with prejudice means that Shady is not entitled to any relief based on Source’s past actions. “That is the totality of the adjudication that defendants are entitled to, and that is what they will receive by the [dismissal of the action].”

Shady Records, Inc. v. Source Enterprises, Inc., 2005 WL 696795 (S.D.N.Y., March 23, 2005).

Posts navigation

1 2 3 12 13 14 15 16