YouTube Protected by DMCA Safe Harbor, Viacom Suit Dismissed on Remand

This post follows up on my post entitled YouTube’s Safe Harbor Status Requires More Fact-Finding, Rules Second Circuit.  Viacom and other plaintiffs who are content owners sued YouTube for copyright infringement.  The district court granted YouTube’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that YouTube was protected by the DMCA §512(c) safe harbor.  On appeal, the Second Circuit ruled in YouTube’s favor on some issues, but remanded the case to the district court to address four specific issues.  On remand, the district court ruled in YouTube’s favor on all four of those issues, granted YouTube’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint.

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Yahoo! Responds to Subpoenas in Good Faith, Immune Under the Stored Communications Act

Internet service provider Yahoo! Inc. received grand jury subpoenas from the District Attorney’s Office for the Southern Judicial Circuit of Georgia, seeking records regarding the identification of one of Yahoo!’s users.  Yahoo! complied with the subpoenas and produced the records.  Fayelynn Sams, the user whose records the Georgia district attorney sought, sued Yahoo!, alleging violations of the Stored Communications Act (SCA) (18 U.S.C. §§2701-2712).  Sams argued that Yahoo! violated the SCA by disclosing information pursuant to invalid subpoenas, and that, even if the subpoenas were valid, Yahoo! violated the SCA by producing the records before the deadlines set in the subpoenas.

The district court granted Yahoo!’s motion to dismiss the complaint, ruling that Yahoo! was immune from liability under the SCA, §2703(e) for disclosing subscriber information in accordance with the terms of a subpoena.  The Ninth Circuit decided the case under §2707(e), which provides immunity for disclosing the information on a “good faith reliance” on a grand jury subpoena.  The interpretation of “good faith reliance” under §2707(e) was a matter of first impression in the Ninth Circuit, i.e., the Ninth Circuit had not previously addressed the issue.  The Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s dismissal.

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Unauthorized Streaming of Television Broadcasts Not Infringing

Aereo, Inc., charges a monthly fee for subscribers to watch broadcast television programs over the Internet.  Aereo’s service is currently available only in New York City.  Aereo picks up the broadcast signals using thousands of small antennas, each about the size of a dime.  Aereo assigns an antenna to an individual user, so that only one user uses a particular antenna at a time.  Users can record a program and/or watch the program, which is delayed just a few seconds compared to the broadcast.  A user’s individual directory is created on a hard drive at Aereo’s facility using the signal received through the antenna assigned to that user.  Each user views her individual copy of a program.  Copies created at the request of one user cannot be shared with other users.

The owners of copyrights for programs broadcast on network television sued Aereo for copyright infringement, alleging infringement of their right of public performance.  The copyright owners sought a preliminary injunction against Aereo.  The district court denied the motion, ruling that the Second Circuit’s opinion in Cartoon Network LP, LLLP v. CSC Holdings, Inc., (Cablevision) precluded a ruling in favor of the copyright owners.  The copyright owners appealed the denial of the preliminary injunction to the Second Circuit.  The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and agreed that Cablevision’s ruling controls in this case.  “Aereo’s transmissions are not public performances.”  (Opinion pdf page 33).  Infringement of the copyright owners’ other exclusive rights, such as reproduction and distribution, was not before the court because the copyright owners based their motion for a preliminary injunction on only the public performance right.

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Digital Used Music Sales Infringing, Not Protected by First Sale Doctrine

ReDigi Inc. claims that it is “the world’s first and only online marketplace for digital used music.”  (Opinion pdf page 1).  Capitol Records is the copyright owner for numerous songs sold on ReDigi’s website and did not authorize the sales.  Capitol Records sued ReDigi for copyright infringement, alleging direct copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement and common law copyright infringement. 

The copyright owner’s exclusive rights under the Copyright Act include the right to make copies, distribute the work and publicly perform the work.  These rights are limited by the first sale doctrine, which allows the lawful owner of a particular copy of the work to sell the work without the permission of the copyright owner.  Last week’s blog post, First Sale Doctrine Not Limited by Geography, Rules U.S. Supreme Court, describes the first sale doctrine in detail.  “The novel question presented in this action is whether a digital music file, lawfully made and purchased, may be resold by its owner through ReDigi under the first sale doctrine.”  (Opinion pdf page 4.)  The district court ruled that it cannot.

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