Appeals Court Ruling Makes Waves in Piracy’s Safe Harbor
A chill wind has ruffled the waters of the safe harbor in which pirates flourish under protection of federal law. A court ruling has challenged their right to take refuge there in cases of flagrant flouting of the spirit of the law.
As things stand, if you sell somebody else’s copyrighted book on your website you are protected by the so-called safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The offended author is required to file a takedown notice and provide evidence of his or her ownership of the copyright. Then you have a reasonable period of time to take the files down without penalty or liability. There is – or at least until yesterday there was – no distinction between inadvertent use of the work and flagrant expropriation.
But a ruling by a US Court of Appeals did draw that distinction in a suit brought by Viacom against YouTube for running Daily Show videos without permission: “A reasonable jury could conclude that YouTube had knowledge or awareness” that YouTube was infringing, said the ruling.
If the Court’s interpretation holds up, it could remove the shield protecting hardcore pirates. Yes, it could also expose casual infringers ignorant of the law, but it’s not likely that a reasonable jury would find them guilty by the standard created by the yesterday’s Court ruling. Said plaintiff Viacom: “The court delivered a definitive, common-sense message — intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law.”
Details in Appeals Court Revives Viacom Suit Against YouTube by Brian Stelter in the New York Times.
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