15 Technologies The Legacy Content Companies Have Sued In The Past 15 Years

from the suing-innovation dept

Many are familiar with the Sony Betamax case, the landmark Supreme Court decision which nearly 30 years ago ruled that selling videocassette recorders to consumers was not copyright infringement.  Not as well known, but equally important, was the case of the Diamond Rio.

Fifteen years after Sony, when the future of the home electronics industry turned on the vote of a single Supreme Court Justice, the recording industry sued to kill MP3 players.  In fact, it was exactly 15 years ago today when recording industry lawyers told a federal court that Diamond Multimedia’s Rio, one of the earliest MP3 players, was illegal and needed to be stopped before it found its way into consumers’ hands.

A federal appellate court finally spiked the industry’s campaign against the Rio, which paved the way for a wave of consumer products which ultimately converged into the modern smartphone.

Unfortunately, neither the Sony decision nor the Diamond Rio case ended the century-long trend of new technology being met with copyright litigation.  On the 15th anniversary of the Rio suit, here are 15 other products/services that have since met with litigation, and how they have fared:

  1. ReplayTV

ReplayTV, a DVR and time-shifting service, was launched in 1997 and marketed by SONICblue, a successor to Diamond Multimedia.  In October 2001, the company was sued by TV industry rights-holders over features including commercial-skipping (which was recently given a stamp of approval by multiple federal courts in the DISH Hopper litigation [1] [2]).  Legal costs drove the company into bankruptcy in March 2003.  The purchaser of the technology, Digital Networks North America (DNNA), announced in June 2003 that it was removing some of the contentious features, which prompted the entertainment industry plaintiffs to dismiss litigation against ReplayTV and SONICblue.  ReplayTV.com’s assets were ultimately acquired by DIRECTV.

  1. MP3.com

MP3.com, founded in 1997, preceded modern cloud-based file storage services.  The service aimed to permit users, after buying a CD, to listen to that CD at any Internet-connected location.  The recording industry sued MP3.com in January 2000, before the company launched.  A court ruled against MP3.com in September 2000, and the company was ordered to pay nearly $118 million in statutory damages for willful infringement.  As described in a paper by Prof. Michael Carrier, the company ultimately opted to settle for approximately $50 million.  According to an ABC News article, “U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff said it was necessary to send a message to the Internet community to deter copyright infringement.”  In 2003, CNET bought the domain name, but not the technology or music assets, and currently maintains the site.

  1. MP3tunes

In 2005, Michael Robertson, the founder of MP3.com, again attempted to launch a music service – MP3tunes – which operated personal online storage lockers and a music search engine.  In November 2007, stemming from disagreements over a takedown notice issued to MP3tunes, EMI filed suit for copyright infringement against MP3tunes and Robertson.  In 2011, after four years of litigation, MP3tunes filed for bankruptcy.

  1. iCraveTV

<img style=”display:block;float:right;margin-left:10px;” size-thumbnail wp-image-5407″ title=”iCraveTV” src=”http://www.project-disco.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/iCraveTV-150×150.jpg” alt=”” height=”150″ width=”150″/>iCraveTV was a Canadian website, which launched in 1999, and offered online streaming of Canadian and American over-the-air TV broadcasts.  In February 2000, a U.S. court issued a preliminary injunction against iCraveTV, prohibiting it from operating in the U.S.  Before Canadian courts had the opportunity to consider the issues, that same month iCraveTV discontinued operating in return for plaintiffs’ agreement to withdraw all actions against it.

  1. ClearPlay

<img style=”display:block;float:left;margin-right:10px;” size-full wp-image-5410″ title=”cp_logo” src=”http://www.project-disco.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/cp_logo.png” alt=”” height=”95″ width=”139″/>ClearPlay is a parental control DVD player that allows content filtering, skipping, and muting of DVD films.  This feature allowed parents to design a customized filter for each movie, by choosing whether to skip varying degrees of violence, sexual content, and profanity.  Movie studios sued ClearPlay for copyright infringement in 2002, alleging that by editing out content, ClearPlay was creating unauthorized derivative works.  Before the case was resolved in the courts, Congress intervened and passed the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (FECA), which immunized ClearPlay’s product from copyright liability.  (The narrow nature of FECA was such that it did not immunize another company, CleanFlicks, which re-sold edited copies of movies; a Colorado court ruled against CleanFlicks in 2006.)

  1. Search Engines

Although widely embraced today as a valuable tool for navigating the Internet, at one time search engine indexing was alleged by rights holders to constitute copyright infringement.  For example, an adult entertainment magazine and subscription-only website called Perfect 10 sued Amazon, Google, and others for copyright infringement in November 2004 in California district court, for links to allegedly infringing sites, and for “thumbnail”-sized previews of images.

In another case filed the same year, a plaintiff Blake Field sued search provider Google for indexing poems published on his website, seeking $2.5 million dollars.  This claim was rejected by a trial court in 2006.

Several months later, however, the trial court ruled in the Perfect 10 case, holding that while hyperlinks to infringing sites were not likely to be found to be infringing, Google’s thumbnail images were likely to be found to be infringing.  In May 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this, finding for the defendants on all counts.  The court held that Google was not liable for contributory or vicarious infringement, and that the thumbnails were not infringing, as they constituted fair use under a theory of transformativeness, and also failed to demonstrate market harm.

  1. Veoh

Veoh, an Internet television company, debuted its beta service in March 2006 and launched out of beta in February 2007.  In June 2006, Veoh was sued in a California district court by IO Group, a producer of adult entertainment films.  Veoh prevailed on summary judgment, as it was protected by the DMCA’s safe harbors.  In September 2007, UMG Recordings sued Veoh and its investors in a different California district court.  In September 2009, a federal court again ruled in favor of Veoh, stating that Veoh was appropriately complying with the DMCA and thus not liable, which the 9th Circuit upheld in December 2011.  Years of litigation took their toll, however, and Veoh filed for bankruptcy in February 2010, and its assets are now part of a company called Qlipso.

  1. Vimeo

Vimeo, a video-sharing website, was founded in 2004.  Last month, a New York federal judge refused to dismiss a copyright case against Vimeo that had been filed in 2009, unconvinced by Vimeo’s argument that it was protected from liability under the DMCA safe harbors.  The case is expected to proceed to trial.

  1. YouTube

YouTube, a video-sharing website, was created in 2005, and bought by Google in 2006.  In March 2007, Viacom and some other rights holders sued YouTube in New York federal court.  Google’s motion for summary judgement seeking dismissal was granted in June 2010, as the court found they were shielded under the DMCA safe harbors.  In April 2012, the Second Circuit was not entirely convinced that the case did not need to go to trial, and remanded it back to the district court.  In April 2013, the district judge again granted summary judgment in favor of YouTube.  In July 2013, Viacom again appealed the case back up to the Second Circuit.  The litigation is expected to continue into 2014.

  1. Cablevision

In March 2006, Cablevision announced plans to launch a service that would allow subscribers to record programming on a remote DVR, rather than subscribers needing a set-top DVR in their own home.  TV networks sued Cablevision on a theory of direct infringement, rather than alleging secondary liability through the customers’ actions, and in March 2007, the New York district court found that the Cablevision remote DVR would directly infringe plaintiffs’ copyrights.  In August 2008, the Second Circuit reversed the district court and found for Cablevision, holding (1) that the copies weren’t sufficiently fixed to be copies under the Copyright Act, (2) that consumers are the ones making records, not Cablevision, and (3) that playing a copy was a private performance, rather than an infringing public performance, since each copy could only be played by the subscriber who recorded it.

  1. Zediva

Zediva was a service, launched in March 2011, which allowed customers to virtually rent a DVD which was played on a remote DVD player, and then streamed to the customer online.  The film industry sued Zediva, and was granted a preliminary injunction in August 2011 which prevented the service from operating.  In October 2011, the MPAA announced a settlement with Zediva, in which Zediva agreed to permanently shutter its service and pay $1.8 million.

  1. ReDigi

ReDigi is an online marketplace for pre-owned digital music and also a cloud storage service, that currently only accepts music purchased from iTunes.  ReDigi launched in October 2011, and was sued by Capitol Records in January 2012.  In February 2012, the court did not grant a permanent injunction against ReDigi, but in March 2013, it partially granted Capitol Records’ summary judgment motion, deferring to Congress on the issue of digital first sale.  Rob Pegoraro wrote in April on DisCo how this ruling is “another example of trying to fit a digital case into an analog frame, at the cost of denting some logic along the way.”

  1. DISH Hopper

The DISH Hopper is a set-top DVR box with several features, including “AutoHop,” the Hopper’s commercial skipping feature.  DisCo recently covered the status of ongoing copyright litigation against DISH’s Hopper, which was sued in 2012 in district courts in New York and California, and has prevailed so far against all motions that have been filed to attempt to prevent DISH from offering the service to customers.

  1. Aereo

Aereo is a technology company that allows subscribers to view streams of over-the-air television on computers, tablets, and mobile devices.  In September, DisCo covered the status of copyright litigation between television networks and Aereo in New York, where they were sued in March 2012, and Massachusetts, where they were sued in July 2013.  (That post also covered ongoing litigation of television networks against another service, called FilmOn X, in California and Washington, D.C.)  Just yesterday, Aereo was also sued in Utah.

  1. TVEyes

TVEyes is a media monitoring company and search engine for broadcast TV and radio, whose clients include the Pentagon, the UN, Congress, and the NY Times.  The service was sued by Fox News in July 2013 for copyright infringement and misappropriation.  In September 2013, TVEyes responded asking the court to dismiss some of the claims.

Reposted with permission from The Disruptive Competition Project

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Comments on “15 Technologies The Legacy Content Companies Have Sued In The Past 15 Years”

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60 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: "Rikuo" flatly wrong as always.

@ “Rikuo”
I trot out the ol’ Disney retort. He used other people’s content, very few, if more than likely, none at all, of Walt Disney’s cartoons used original content at all.


You are flatly wrong. Disney didn’t use other people’s content, just some ancient ideas.

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Re: Re: "Rikuo" flatly wrong as always.

Disney didn’t use other people’s content

Didn?t Disney and his company (through all its iterations) make a ton of bank off of adapting fairy tales written by other people? Correct me if I?m wrong, but I don?t think The Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Little Mermaid are just ?ancient ideas?.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Rikuo" flatly wrong as always.

@S. T. Stone, Oct 8th, 2013 @ 1:47pm

Re: Re: Re: “Rikuo” flatly wrong as always.
Disney didn’t use other people’s content

Didn?t Disney and his company (through all its iterations) make a ton of bank off of adapting fairy tales written by other people? Correct me if I?m wrong, but I don?t think The Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Little Mermaid are just ?ancient ideas?.


You are wrong, but I’m not falling for the notion that you can be corrected, because you’re simply gainsaying here for sake of appearance so looks like Techdirt has some reasoned opposition to my statements.

Man, it’s amazing that MY stating ideas aren’t protected by copyright brings out sheer gainsaying, when ANY other day, the difference between ideas and content is taken by the fanboys as bedrock principle. The fanboys just knee-jerk contradict the critics here!

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Rikuo" flatly wrong as always.

ideas aren’t protected by copyright

And yet, Disney didn?t just use ?ideas?, they used actual existing copyrighted works: Steambot Bill (as Steamboat Willie), Snow White, Cinderella, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Little Mermaid, Pinnochio, Treasure Island (as Treasure Planet), The Frog Prince (as The Princess and the Frog), Beauty and the Beast?and now you can even argue that it bought copyrighted works in order to use them (LucasFilm/Star Wars and Marvel?s comics/films) to improve its profit margin.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Rikuo" flatly wrong as always.

Bro. For real? Steamboat Willie was a flat out rip off of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill. Even some of the choreography. Steamboat BIll wasn’t an ancient idea; it was released the year before. Disney was trading off the name. Steamboat Willie takes everything from Steamboat Bill. Disney didn’t even have the creativity to come up with a better name that Buster Keaton’s.

If you think that’s just taking “ideas”, then you might have the most liberal idea of what’s content and what’s an “idea” out of anyone here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Lets see,
1) Record labels tale control over content that other people create.
2) Book publishers take control over content that other people create.
3)Most films are derivative works of other peoples content.

All three industries are famed for using accounting tricks to keep most of the money made by other peoples contents, that why the poor and starving artists is a common trope.

The people pushing hardest for strong copyright, and trying to destroy ant technology that threatens that control, are those whose fortunes are based on other peoples content. It looks like they want to keep the monopoly on making money off of other peoples works.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: It looks like they want to keep the monopoly on making money off of other people's works.

.. by producing none of their own ORIGINAL content, which is what Blue usually freaks out about.

Now TRANSFORMATIVE works are permitted in OOTB-land, as long as “a Corporation” or “The Rich” are somehow involved. It’s the only time doesn’t oppose them, apparently.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“EVERY single one used other people’s content.”

So you’re saying if you CREATE a software or hardware system for distributing/storing/playing content, you should also have to create all the content that goes on it?! Do you realise how monumentally retarded that sounds?

“Created absolutely nothing themselves.”

Right, except for all those websites and software/hardware they created, all of which which added value to the content. Except for that, nothing.

“Hilarious.”

Yes you are…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

EVERY single one used other people’s content. Created absolutely nothing themselves. Hilarious.

Hello Anonymous Coward

Your post contains facts, and the word ‘ridiculous’.

We are sorry to inform you that such a post qualifies for censorship on the Techdirt blog.

Please get with the program, and remember the unacceptable trigger words the next time you think about posting here.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Walkman” could refer to portable CD players.

But, either way, why not? Not everybody instantly upgrades to a new format, tape players often had better battery life than portable CD players (and didn’t suffer from skipping like many cheap CD models did), and if most if your music collection is already on cassette why would you upgrade? Especially since CD burning could often be more expensive and less reliable than tape-to-tape (or even CD to tape) copying at the time.

The upgrade path from cassette/CD to iPod was a no brainer for most people (carry your entire music collection or large compilations with you, not just what fits on a couple of tapes), cassette to CD was a harder sell for portable devices since you don’t get the improved sound quality.

out_of_the_blue says:

Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

That’s a do-able number. The actual number of pirates is at least tens of milions, and their thefts must be reckoned in billions of dollars.

Just ’cause you need some balance here. It’s easy to make a one-sided case — and in absence of opposition to look convincing — but soon as other facts are even introduced… It’s most likely I’ll be censored with the fanboys precious “report” button.


Biggest lie in least words: “a few pirates”!

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

The major media conglomerates know better than to sue individual pirates (for the most part). Companies and corporations have more money and putting them out of business makes for a far easier time (both in court and on the PR circuit) than suing dead people, grandparents who?ve never used a computer, and people who had their WiFi hijacked without their knowledge.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

@ S. T. Stone, Oct 8th, 2013 @ 1:41pm

Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.
The major media conglomerates know better than to sue individual pirates (for the most part). Companies and corporations have more money and putting them out of business makes for a far easier time (both in court and on the PR circuit) than suing dead people, grandparents who?ve never used a computer, and people who had their WiFi hijacked without their knowledge.


Totally avoids my points besides the topic, as always.

Besides that, also avoids AC @ #1 pointing out that ALL of these used someone else’s content.

Keep avoiding facts: only way you can continue to argue.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

@ S. T. Stone, Oct 8th, 2013 @ 1:50pm

Re: Re: Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.
ALL of these used someone else’s content

No, they didn?t. They just used ancient ideas.


Sheesh. You are flatly contradicted by evidence above. Picking out a clear one:

iCraveTV was a Canadian website, which launched in 1999, and offered online streaming of Canadian and American over-the-air TV broadcasts.

I see you’re in “quick and trivial contradiction” mode; this is exactly the kind of worthless back-and-forth that Techdirt fanboys so love. Any ankle-biter can do it.


Translation: “Techdirt Community” = gang of piratey trolls.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

Actually their ‘thefts’ according to pretty much all independent studies have had between neutral effects on sales and positive effects on sales. So overall the ‘thefts’ have benefitted the pockets of the publishers and content creators.
That’s the balanced view.
The one sided and completely unsupported view is that internet piracy has negatively effected profits.
That view, strongly lobbied for has cost nations fortunes in new legislation and pointless enforcement efforts. Has cost new and innovative industries millions and deprived people of the benefits they would have derived from same.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

@ AC
Actually their ‘thefts’ according to pretty much all independent studies…


AC trots out a tired lie avoiding facts.

Study: Megaupload closure boosted Hollywood sales 10%

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/03/08/megaupload_piracy_study/

BTW: link there rather than the study itself because The Register has an entirely different slant on Megaupload from Mike.

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Re: Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

Just yesterday, you argued against the idea that a law enacting strict copyright enforcement could not have become the sole reason for the fall of music sales in Japan:

The study is of course equivocal. May be many other reasons for the decline, like, oh, wild increase in fiat money further depressing economy, nuclear power plants melting down, with displacement of people…

But here, you seem to argue that the deletion of a major site has become the sole reason for the claimed spike in sales from two ?anonymous Hollywood studios? without taking any other factors into account (e.g. a recent availability of new films, improvements in services, price drops).

In the words of the not-quite-so-immortal Super Kami Guru: WHY ARE YOU STILL HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERE

JMT says:

Re: Now name the number of pirates actually sued.

“The actual number of pirates is at least tens of milions…”

No argument there. That’s what happens when something becomes a worldwide societal norm.

“…and their thefts must be reckoned in billions of dollars.”

Your “must be” translates as “completely made-up and ubsustantiated”. You have no idea, and neither does anybody else really. The only consistent result from all the studies is that those with vested interests claim that the losses are orders of magnitude higher than truly independent studies.

Anonymous Coward says:

the things that stuck out to me were

a) the obvious disruption that has been caused by the same people, the same industries to our progress, our future and that of every person on the planet, both now and in years to come

b)how the rulings are starting to change, away from the legacy industries. i dont know if it’s because the judges that ruled in the early cases have passed away, whether the actual train of thought is changing, whether the judges sitting on these type of cases are now actually learning about the technology they are going to be ruling on. let’s face it, if you dont know how to bake a cake, how are you supposed to know whether the ingredients are right?

c)how even when a case is ruled against the entertainment industries, they just keep on suing, keep on appealing, until sooner or later, they manage to get a judge who happens to think different to all the others that have ruled on the case (but has probably received a little ‘encouragement!) and rules in favor of those legacy industries. then, see how loudly those industries shout out that they have one another ‘land mark case’! and also see how loudly they shout out when the company that had won every case up to the last one, wants to appeal that last decision!!

d)how so many companies had to quit before they got going, not because they had been doing or intended doing anything illegal, just that the industries didn’t like it!

e)considering some of the rulings nowadays, i wonder if the companies that lost previously, would be allowed to re-trial and get money back

f)lastly, how not one of the things that the legacy industries either stopped from getting going or stopped from operating after struggling to get going, have been started in any form by the entertainment industries. how the fuck can politicians and courts continuously stop companies from doing something that an industry fights so hard to stop or prevent, but dont realise that nothing is taking the place? if the service was a bad thing, the industries would leave it to fail by itself. if were any good and the industries were jealous, they would start their own service, based on the one they just had closed down. absolutely nothing happens, so everyone, including the thick idiots in the entertainment industries themselves, lose out big time! what a complete, selfish balls up!!

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

how even when a case is ruled against the entertainment industries, they just keep on suing, keep on appealing, until sooner or later, they manage to get a judge who happens to think different to all the others that have ruled on the case (but has probably received a little ‘encouragement!) and rules in favor of those legacy industries.

They don’t even need that. They just keep suing and appealing until the target runs out of money and goes bankrupt. There is more than one example just on this list of companies that never lost in court but had to shut down because they couldn’t afford to keep defending themselves.

Matt (user link) says:

Suing, Suing, Suing

It seems that these industries haven’t got the message that suing doesn’t work. It’s not conducive to promoting innovative technology, and it seems the technology will consistently win in the long run. It seems that for as many brands that are being sued, just as many are popping up to take their place.

This is just another case of old, crotchety corporations unwilling to change their approach to appeal to the masses that they’re suing other companies to keep.

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