Supreme Court Apparently Interested In 'Innocent Infringer' RIAA Case

from the this-could-get-interesting dept

We've been covering the Whitney Harper "innocent infringement" case for a while now. Harper, as a teenager, was sued in one of the tens of thousands of RIAA lawsuits, for sharing some music via Limewire. US copyright law has a provision for "innocent infringement," where it lets you lower the statutory award amounts from a minimum of $750 down to $200. Harper made the case that she was unaware that sharing music via Limewire was unauthorized, as it seemed just like an online radio to her. While the district court sided with Harper in saying that it was innocent infringement, the record labels appealed and the appeals court reversed, claiming that because the CD cases of the music in question had proper copyright notices, Harper was properly notified... even though she never saw those cases.

Harper appealed to the Supreme Court earlier this year. At the time, I noted that while this is an important issue, I doubted the Supreme Court would hear the case. However, indicating a fair bit of interest, the Court has asked the RIAA to respond to Harper's appeal -- which generally indicates serious interest in potentially taking the case. According to Wired, the court normally agrees to hear less than 1% of appeals, but if it requests more info on a petition, then it tends to take 34% of those cases. Still long odds, but a lot more likely...

Filed Under: copyright, innocent infringement, supreme court, whitney harper


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2010 @ 8:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The Fifth Circuit briefly touched upon the constitutionality issue, even going so far as to replicate what was brought up before the district court. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court correctly decided to issue no opinion on the issue given the issue's, at best, purely cursory nature as presented to the district court.

    Neither Nesson nor Camara and Co.have shown throughout the cases with which they have been associated that they believe the Rules of Civil Procedure are particularly important or relevant. Thus, this is why I mentioned earlier I have not the slightest doubt that Camara and Co. will leave no stone unturned trying to get the issue before the district court if the case is ultimately remanded to it. That is the "Ark of the Covenant" they are seeking, and one who may believe otherwise should really take a look at the proceedings in the Tennenbaum and JRT cases in NY and MN, respectively. This is the issue common to all the cases.

    Frankly, I am still somewhat in the dark trying to figure out what is the economic motivation that underlies Camara and Co.'s involvement in these cases. They are not a public interest group. They are a firm devoted to class action lawsuits, and I harbor suspicions that they may be working towards a class action suit at some time in the future against the rights holders (the labels, and perhaps even the industry associations). Of course, for this to even occur they need to somehow get the constitutionality issue injected into one or more of the cases, and to ultimately secure a ruling favorable to their position.

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