Supreme Court Won't Hear Innocent Infringer Case, Though Alito Thinks It Should
from the pay-attention dept
This is hardly a surprise. Since Whitney Harper lost the appeal in her fight against the RIAA, claiming that statutory rates should be lowered to $200 (from a minimum of $750) as she was an “innocent infringer” (something which the law allows), we noted that it was unlikely the Supreme Court would hear the case. Even after the Supreme Court asked the RIAA for more info, we still noted that it was a long shot. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Supreme Court has refused to hear the case.
If you don’t recall, the issue is whether or not Harper qualifies as an innocent infringer under the law. Her argument was that she believed file sharing was similar to radio and never saw any indication that she was infringing on anyone’s copyright. The appeals court, oddly, ruled that the copyright notice on CDs was enough — even though Harper never saw any of the CDs in question. This seemed like an odd ruling, though perhaps not a big enough issue for the Supreme Court to care about.
What’s interesting is that at least one Justice, Samuel Alito, actually did want to hear the case and appears to agree that Harper had a really strong case:
In explaining his position, Alito appeared to agree with Harper saying there is a “strong argument” that the current law does not apply to downloaded digital music files. “[A] person who downloads a digital music file generally does not see any material object bearing a copyright notice, and accordingly there is force to the argument that [current law] does not apply.”
I hadn’t heard Alito opine on anything related to cppyright law before, so this is interesting. There hasn’t been a big copyright case to hit the Supreme Court in a while, and there are a lot of new Justices on the court since cases like Eldred and Grokster. If there are some Justices who actually recognize that the law doesn’t seem to weigh what the industry keeps insisting it says, things could get quite interesting…