Scribd Lawsuit Even More Bizarre: It's The Filter That Infringes?

from the good-luck-on-that-idea dept

We already wrote about the somewhat odd class action lawsuit against Scribd, but it turns out it's even more bizarre than we first thought. That's because not only is the lawsuit complaining about authors works appearing on the site without authorization, but, according to Wired, the lawsuit also claims that Scribd's own filtering system infringes. Yes, the very system that it uses to try to prevent works from being uploaded is being called infringing, because it stores a copy to pattern match against uploads. I can't see how it's infringing in any way whatsoever. It's a tool that isn't used for infringement, but to prevent infringement. Perhaps I'm missing the point on how Scribd's filter works, but most filtering tools work on the principle of someone complaining about the unauthorized work being on the site, thus alerting the service provider of the need to filter. That seems like an authorization. But, more importantly, it's difficult to see how such a filter could be seen as infringing even absent such an authorization.

Copyright law grants five different exclusive rights to the copyright holder: the right to reproduce, to prepare derivative works, to distribute, to perform and to display. A filter doesn't really do any of those things. You could somehow try to interpret "reproducing" in such a way to claim that Scribd does that with its filter, but even that seems like a stretch. The only reason that the work is being reproduced is to stop any distribution or display of the work. No one actually gets to see it.

Still, it's quite a bizarre lawsuit that not only sues Scribd for failing to block an uploaded book, but at the very same time also sues the company -- under the same law -- for trying to block an uploaded book. Hopefully this one gets tossed out quickly.
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Filed Under: copyright, filters
Companies: scribd


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  1. identicon
    Rasmus, 22 Sep 2009 @ 4:14pm

    A win-win business proposition...

    Its quite simple isn't it?

    1. Scribd should of course pay for each copyrighted work that gets uploaded with an amount that covers the POTENTIAL damage to the copyright holders future income. Based on the current amounts awarded by courts for such damages it could become a HUGE amount of money.

    2. And to avoid to have to pay such a huge amount of money Scribd should of course license a FILTER RIGHT for each copyrighted work it wants to automatically block. And because the copyrighted work is now part of the source code for the automated filtering software the license fee should be calculated based on the number of processors the filtering software is running on and also the total number of users using the Scribd service during the timeperiod the work is part of the filter. Of course there is one license fee for each copyrighted work added to the filter. The total license fee for FILTER RIGHTS will of course be HUGE.

    A really solid win-win situation for the copyright holders.

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