Bad News: Court Says Cyberlocker & Its Owner Can Be Liable For Copyright Infringement
from the secondary-liability:-watch-out dept
While the full ruling won’t be out for a few weeks, a Florida court has made a horrifically dangerous ruling, saying that cyberlocker Hotfile can be liable for copyright infringement. We’ve been covering the Hotfile case from the beginning, and find this to be fairly surprising. The details of the MPAA’s original lawsuit were astoundingly weak, based on bad inferences and innuendo, which would destroy concepts of protection against secondary liability and completely undermine the safe harbors of the DMCA. The fact that the MPAA misrepresented how Hotfile was used only made things worse. On top of that, it sounds like the judge has said that the guy who owned Hotfile, Anton Titov, is also personally liable.
The specific details of the ruling will be important, because it’s very important to see on what basis Judge Kathleen Williams found as she did, but the risk of massive harm to innovation and the safe harbor protections under the DMCA is very, very real. Stupidly, the MPAA is cheering on this decision, despite the fact it will likely create chilling effects that will harm the kind of innovation the movie industry needs the most these days.
I know that some people will, undoubtedly, argue that Hotfile was used for a lot of infringement — and there’s evidence to suggest that’s true. But, copyright owners have always had a remedy there: go after the actual infringers. Putting liability on the cyberlocker itself now puts just about any online cloud provider at risk of getting sued. Dropbox, Box.net, Flickr, YouTube, Google and many others need to pay close attention to what comes out of this case, because pinning liability on a third party storage company will make it much more expensive for any such service to be in business. This is sad, and stupidly counterproductive for the MPAA, because what it should be doing these days is embracing services that help fans access the kind of content they want when they want it. Instead, they’re actively trying to shut down innovations via copyright law.
I’m sure we’ll have a more thorough analysis of the full details of the ruling once they’re out.