Case Against UCLA For Streaming Licensed DVDs To Students Dismissed Yet Again

from the good-rulings dept

A few years ago we wrote about how UCLA professors were barred from continuing an existing program in which they had streamed properly licensed DVDs to students. The lawsuit came from the Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME). We noted that one of the key aspects of "fair use" is supposed to be that it allows for educational use, and it seemed ridiculous that any such streaming wasn't fair use. After thinking it over, UCLA decided to stand up for itself and put the videos back online. AIME sat on this for eight or nine months and finally sued, arguing that its contract with the University meant that UCLA had given up its fair use rights, and that even if it was fair use, it was a breach of contract. A year ago, the judge dismissed the case, mostly focusing on the question of whether or not AIME even had standing to sue and whether or not, as a state university, UCLA could hide behind a sovereign immunity claim.

AIME filed a new (amended) complaint against UCLA... which basically restated everything it had lost over, and then added a few claims. The court apparently was not impressed. It just dismissed the case all over again with prejudice, meaning that AIME can't just refile. On top of that it actually dealt a bit more with the copyright questions. First, it was not at all impressed by AIME's decision to just replead the same exact thing a second time:
In its order dismissing the FAC, the Court dismissed with prejudice all claims against the Regents and claims seeking damages against individual defendants in their official capacity on the grounds that these individual defendants are immune from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity... Plaintiffs have verbatim re-pleaded those claimsfrom the FAC for purposes of appeal.... As these claims have already been dismissed with prejudice, the Court does not analyze them further.
Later the court goes through a relatively quick fair use analysis, focused mainly on the question of whether it would have been obvious to the average person that this use was not fair use. The court finds plenty of ambiguity in the fair use analysis, and thus notes that it is not obviously a case of infringement, so AIME's claim that this was clearly infringement doesn't hold up.

Then there are a few other interesting points, including a discussion of whether or not streaming is a form of "distribution." Remember that we were just discussing the whole distibution right under copyright law, even pointing out that if you read what copyright law actually says, it only refers to "material objects" in which a copyright-covered item is "fixed" -- not to transient digital files. This appears to be one case where the court actually noticed that fact, and points out that with a stream, the digital product was not actually distributed:
Under the Copyright Act, distributed items must be “material objects” in which a copy is “fixed.” 17 U.S.C. § 101. Plaintiffs’ new allegations that “the Video Furnace system administrator retains an original copy of the AVP DVD while distributing copies to end users, which copies remain on the end user’s computer as long as the Video Furnace InStream player remains open” does not change this outcome. For a copy to be fixed, it must be “sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than a transitory duration.” 17 U.S.C. § 101. The “copy” on the end users computer, as alleged, is not fixed.
They also have an interesting response to the anti-circumvention DMCA claim in the amended lawsuit. One of the main problems many people have with the anti-circumvention clause is that it appears to apply absent any actual infringing activity. That is, under the DMCA it appears that merely circumventing DRM, even if for legitimate, non-infringing uses, is considered against the law. But here, the court rules that since the copy is legal, there is no problem with circumventing the DRM. That's very interesting:
This Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to cure the defects with their DMCA claim. First, the allegations in the SAC do not support a claim that Defendants violated 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(A) by using the HVS Video Furnace software to “circumvent . . . a technological measure that effectively controls access to” the DVDs because UCLA had lawful access to the DVDs and Plaintiffs essentially allege improper usage of the DVDs.
Either way, the latest ruling is a complete victory for UCLA and yet another loss for AIME. While the question of fair use is still mostly brushed aside (unfortunately), the overall ruling is a good thing.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 4:52pm

    So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

    "For a copy to be fixed, it must be “sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than a transitory duration.”

    That'd possibly be reasonable and workable, EXCEPT that you pirates then whine that you don't "own" digital data such as electronic books. Also I'm pretty sure this won't end your support of infringing distribution such as this definition makes for Megaupload!

     

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      Rikuo (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 5:00pm

      Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

      Question, out_of_the_blue

      We're pirates. Yeah, self-admitted at least in my case. So f*cking what? Do you also know what else I am? A customer! Take my Steam library for example. Nearly a thousand euros in there (when not counting DLC). Most of those games I've downloaded already, before paying.

      So simply dismissing anything we have to say simply because we're pirates only proves how foolish and stupid you are. Now, be a good little boy and go sit in the corner, wearing your dunce's hat. Maybe when you grow up and learn to properly debate, you'll be welcomed here...

       

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      Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 5:03pm

      Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

      ...Oh, I'm sorry. Were you trying to make sense?

       

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      vegetaman (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 5:04pm

      Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

      I'm trying to reconcile your logic of calling those of us that buy digital property (ie. iTunes music, Steam games, etc.) "pirates" because we're not happy about the exact rules surrounding ownership of what was purchased.

      But then I realized that logic does not apply as far as you are concerned; and then it all made sense!

       

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    •  
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      Zos (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 5:32pm

      Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

      if there was a point in there i'm unable to find it.

       

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      identicon
      lulz, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 5:35pm

      Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

      u crackin blue?

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 6:50pm

        Re: Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

        Crackin'? out_of_the_ass constantly acts like he's on crack. I think I should be changing my pet name for him to out_of_the_asscrack.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2012 @ 4:16am

      Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

      OOTB just proves that giving a keyboard to a child who can't read is pointless.

       

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      Tex Arcana (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:27pm

      Re: So, streaming okay, downloading and saving whole file not...

      Well, I've been wondering who the hell this OOTB is, and why he's suck a dick.

      Well, now I know!!

      He's a fucking MAFIAA shill! Probably some junior l̶a̶w̶y̶e̶r̶ slime spawn in the legal department; and, he's trying to b̶l̶o̶w̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶w̶a̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶p̶ impress his overlords with his online trolling.

      Hey, d̶i̶c̶k̶w̶e̶e̶d̶ OOTB: how's that workin' for ya? :tard:

       

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    saulgoode (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 6:30pm

    “[A] person who engages in prohibited usage of a copyrighted work to which he has lawful access does not fall afoul of any provision of Section 1201.” Nimmer on Copyright §12A.03[D][3]
    This is interesting. I always find it disturbing that courts so wantonly yield to Nimmer as an unequivocal authority; however, in this case I very much agree with the interpretation. Despite the obfuscated wording of the DMCA, it should always be presumed that lawful owners of copies of copyrighted works are authorized to access those works.

     

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    Brendy, Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:12pm

    Phew..

    Good for UCLA...I was afraid for a while there that I'd one day be unable to show my friends a DVD in my living room without being sued. I am glad the legal system has some sense.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Nov 26th, 2012 @ 7:27pm

    This Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to cure the defects with their DMCA claim. First, the allegations in the SAC do not support a claim that Defendants violated 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(A) by using the HVS Video Furnace software to “circumvent . . . a technological measure that effectively controls access to” the DVDs because UCLA had lawful access to the DVDs and Plaintiffs essentially allege improper usage of the DVDs.


    *gasp* the horrors, a company confronted with the idea that when a product is purchased - the buyer gets rights to use it as they want, not how the company dictates.

    It would be nice if this helped clear up and end the whole campagin against format shifting. If you purchase it and own it, you have the right to decided how and where you watch it. That the expectation that you need to buy additional copies to cover shifting it to your tablet or laptop from a plastic disc is dead.

     

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    btrussell (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 4:10am

    "For a copy to be fixed, it must be “sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than a transitory duration.” 17 U.S.C. § 101. The “copy” on the end users computer, as alleged, is not fixed."

    That is good to hear.
    R-click > Delete
    L-click > Yes

    File is gone. Just how permanent and stable is that?

    If all "property" were that stable we could do away with landfills.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 5:55am

    Plaintifs: Streaming == Distribution?

    > Plaintiffs’ new allegations that “the Video Furnace
    > system administrator retains an original copy of the AVP
    > DVD while distributing copies to end users, which copies
    > remain on the end user’s computer as long as the Video
    > Furnace InStream player remains open”

    So if 'streaming' is distributing, then Netflix / Amazon / Hulu / etc are distributing. They might as well just make their videos downloadable which would simplify everything, not to mention save tons of bandwidth for subsequent viewings.

     

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      Tex Arcana (profile), Nov 27th, 2012 @ 7:30pm

      Re: Plaintifs: Streaming == Distribution?

      Their point is that any form of transmission/watching/using/learning/occupying time and space with light and noise should incur a royalty payment, the steeper the better.

      Because, DMCA!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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