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
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2009 @ 8:56pm

    Understand that an attorney representing a client will typically file a laundry list of claims, some strong and some weak. In this instance it appears as if the claim at issue is rather on the weak side and will likely not be viewed with favor by the court.

    In all candor, I know precious few attorneys steeped in copyright law who would give such a claim even a passing thought. A laundry list as presented here draws attention away from claims that may have some modicum of merit.

    Equally troubling is the attempt to pursue a class action, the type of cases upon which the lawfirm bases its practice. Add to this the absence of any comprehensive knowledge by the members of that firm with substantive copyright law, and what I unfortunately forsee is an accident waiting to happen.

    Quite frankly, based upon this firm's handling of the Thomas-Rassert case and the complaint filed in this case, I have to wonder if there are members of the copyright bar who look forward to this firm representing adverse parties. It is beginning to look as if this may be the case.

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