Google Defends The DMCA's Safe Harbors Against The MPAA's Attempts To Reinterpret Them In Hotfile Case
from the reasonable-brief dept
We’ve noted that the MPAA’s case against Hotfile is surprisingly weak, and seems to be arguing that usage alone is proof of Hotfile’s complicity in any infringement done by users. This is a strange argument, which is more smoke and mirrors than anything legit. It’s as if the MPAA believes that if it just screams “but… but… piracy!” loud enough, the judge will forget to look at the actual law. However, in a bit of a surprising move, Google is trying to step in and inform the judge on one key piece of the case, with an amicus brief.
At issue is the standard used to judge whether or not the DMCA’s safe harbors apply. Obviously, Google has a vested interest in having previous court rulings on the DMCA’s safe harbor followed in this case, not just because those rulings protect Google, but because they’re the only way the DMCA actually makes any sense. Google’s argument is pretty clear and well-argued: as the DMCA safe harbors themselves, the massive DMCA caselaw and the Congressional history of the DMCA all show in pretty great detail, to lose the DMCA’s safe harbors, a company has to have specific knowledge of infringement, not just general knowledge that its tool is used for infringement. The MPAA’s argument is effectively the opposite — and is completely nonsensical: that if it can show that enough people infringed, then it should be assumed that Hotfile could have stopped the infringement. As the Google argument explains simply, that’s a clear distortion of the law. In fact, they point out that the MPAA is so far off the reservation on this one that it can’t even find DMCA cases to support its position, instead choosing two cases that have nothing to do with the DMCA.
Amusingly (and ridiculously), the MPAA is so freaked out about Google explaining the law on this one key point that it’s asking the judge not to allow the brief, suggesting that rather than providing a separate third party view, Google’s brief is really just re-arguing Hotfile’s position. That’s an argument that makes little sense, though. Google’s brief is pretty narrowly focused on just one key issue in the much larger case surrounding Hotfile: it’s merely asking the court to make sure it follows the same standard used in most other courts in the country. It makes no specific statements concerning Hotfile’s actions at all. The issue Google raises is important because this court and this Circuit have not specifically ruled on the DMCA safe harbors — a fact you can bet the MPAA knows well. No doubt, the MPAA is hoping that a different ruling in this case can lead to split that would (it hopes) lead to all of those many other DMCA rulings protecting safe harbors being overturned.
I’m sure that some simplistic commenters may try to summarize this case as Google defending Hotfile, but the specifics of the filing make it pretty clear that’s not what’s going on at all. It merely points out the well accepted standards and practices for removing DMCA safe harbor protections — which are quite different than the interpretation of the safe harbors that the MPAA gave the court in its motion for summary judgment.