Supreme Court Asked To Explore Whether 'Innocent Infringement' Is A Legit Response In File Sharing Cases

from the might-not-matter-after-acta... dept

A few years back, we wrote about a teenager who used "innocent infringement" as a defense to an unauthorized file sharing lawsuit brought against her by the RIAA. Innocent infringement is in the law, as a way to reduce the statutory awards from the $750 minimum to $200. It doesn't absolve the person or get them out of paying, but can greatly lower the amount. The district court agreed, and said she could just pay the $200 rate. However, an appeals court overturned, saying that because CDs have copyright notices on them -- even though the girl never saw the CDs -- the girl should have known that the mp3s were infringing. The logic there made very little sense. How can you hold someone to a clause that was never seen?

The girl's lawyers have now appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which now has the option of weighing in on the matter (the Wired article linked here is a little misleading, in that at the beginning and in the headline, it implies that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case). If I had to guess, I'd say the Supreme Court won't take the case, even though it is an important issue.

Filed Under: copyright, innocent infringement, supreme court


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  1. identicon
    The other coward, 28 May 2010 @ 7:19am

    @Anonymous Coward,
    The question is whether she thought what she was doing was illegal. She may not have as many people don't really consider the ramifications of downloading things from a torrent (or similar), especially years ago when this apparently occurred.

    The scary part is that if somewhere there is a posted notice that what you're doing might be illegal, you're responsible to know it and understand it completely. Copyright law is extremely complex and not obvious to most people. You can't be given a blank slate to break the law, but at the same time there needs to be some leniency and rationality thrown into the mix.

    Take downloading a MP3 of a song I purchased on CD. What about making a mix tape? Are those copyright violations? Probably, but the vast majority of people see nothing inherently wrong with it. It's not morally wrong to them. Many people would not think it's illegal. So if I put up some warning in some random location, you're expected to know it and therefor you're maliciously breaking my copyright and liable for tens of thousands of dollars (to over a hundred thousand) in damages. It's rediculous.

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