Federal Judge Says Providing Web Hosting Isn't Even Close To The Same Thing As Contributory Infringement

from the only-entity-responsible-for-infringement-is-the-infringer dept

A federal judge has just let a plaintiff know there's a big difference between providing hosting for infringing content and actually participating in copyright infringement. ALS Scan sued basically everybody for copyright infringement after discovering adult images that it owned posted all over the web. In addition to Steadfast Holdings -- the defendant just dismissed from this suit -- ALS Scan sued Cloudflare, Juicy Ads, and a number of other hosting services and Does.

One by one, these defendants have been excused from the suit. The underlying logic for the dismissals is solid. Providing web hosting is not the same thing as contributory infringement, no matter how much ALS Scan wants it to be.

In the Steadfast ruling, Wu said that merely hosting a pirate site does not make the hosting service liable for any copyright infringement actions the site may be guilty of.

In its motion to dismiss, Steadfast argued that it did not manage or operate the Imagebam site, and that it only provided computer storage.

"The court is unaware of any authority holding that merely alleging that a defendant provides some form of 'hosting' service to an infringing website is sufficient to establish contributory copyright infringement," Wu wrote.

“The court would therefore find that the [complaint] fails to allege facts establishing that Steadfast materially contributed to the infringement,” Wu wrote.

There's a lot more Steadfast (and the other hosting companies) would have to do to be considered contributory infringers, and the hosting companies are doing none of those things. ALS Scan wants hosting sites to do more than they're legally obligated to do. But it can't sue just because it doesn't agree with their practices. From the opinion [PDF]:

[T]he only allegations specific to Steadfast that are raised in the SAC are that Steadfast “hosts” pirate sites, including Imagebam, and that Plaintiff has sent numerous notifications to Steadfast of infringing content on Imagebam, but Steadfast has failed to implement or enforce a repeat infringer policy by removing Imagebam from its servers.

Beyond that, ALS's complaint contains nothing that shows evidence of its claims.

Steadfast also contends that the SAC fails to allege material contribution or inducement. The Court would agree. The SAC alleges only that Steadfast “hosts” pirate sites that feature infringing content. It is entirely unclear what services Steadfast provides to Imagebam; what type of infringing activity Imagebam conducts (or even what Imagebam is); or how Steadfast contributes to or facilitates that infringing activity. As such, the Court would find that the SAC fails to plead material contribution.

The same goes for the rest of the allegations. Steadfast did not induce or contribute to infringing activity at hosted sites, nor did it somehow violate ALS's trademarks by hosting sites where infringing images could be found.

As Judge Wu's opinion points out, it's not up to the court to determine whether sued websites are "responsive enough" to rightsholders' demands. The law rightsholders wanted -- the DMCA -- sets the rules and as long as sites and hosts follow the statutory requirements, they're insulated from most infringement claims.

It appears ALS is engaging in pray-and-spray litigating. Beyond the Does, there's been no attempt made to target those actually participating in copyright infringement. Instead, ALS sued a bunch of hosting companies (and an ad network) in hopes of landing a settlement or two before its allegations were exposed as weak and baseless by the presiding judge.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 8:53am

    Federal Judge Acknowledges Existence and Purpose of "pirate sites" is to Infringe Copyright For Profit.

    Accurately stated.

    Yes, "hosting" might be neutral, and going after the actual criminals isn't easy so lawyers are inclined to go after visible deep pockets.

    So why do you give the impression that this is finding new law and that infringement has been legalized?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 8:54am

    ungh...

    Can we just NOT throw every mutha fuckin person that paved the roads in jail already?

    If those assholes had not made those fuckin roads no one would have a getaway car when they robbed banks. No one could get drunk and murder someone else with their vehicle. No more people could do stupid stuff and wreck, potentially causing others or themselves to die!

    /s

    I am so glad the Judge has a sane head on their shoulders! Sadly, the court shopping MafiAA's will just keep shopping until they get someone stupid enough to rule in their favor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 24 Feb 2017 @ 8:54am

    [Hangs head] Et Tu, AlsScan?

    They've been crap since the buyout anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 8:54am

    Federal Judge Acknowledges Existence and Purpose of "pirate sites" is to Infringe Copyright For Profit.

    Accurately stated.

    Yes, "hosting" might be neutral, and going after the actual criminals isn't easy so lawyers are inclined to go after visible deep pockets.

    So why do you give the impression that this is finding new law and that infringement has been legalized?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 24 Feb 2017 @ 9:00am

      Re: Federal Judge Acknowledges Existence and Purpose of "pirate sites" is to Infringe Copyright For Profit.

      "So why do you give the impression that this is finding new law and that infringement has been legalized?"
      Wat? What gave you that impression?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 9:19am

        Re: Re: Federal Judge Acknowledges Existence and Purpose of "pirate sites" is to Infringe Copyright For Profit.

        @ "Wat? What gave you that impression?"

        It's throughout the story as proven by that I'm not the only who got the impression, read below AC:

        >>> Sounds bad for the case against mega
        >>> Seems like a good ruling for mega, and no so for the USA getting extradition.

        But doesn't affect the Mega case because that's not just "hosting", but definitely infringement.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Jun 2017 @ 4:47am

          Re: Re: Re: Federal Judge Acknowledges Existence and Purpose of "pirate sites" is to Infringe Copyright For Profit.

          out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 24 Feb 2017 @ 8:58am

    "It appears ALS is engaging in pray-and-spray litigating"
    Must... resist... temptation.

    On can say their hole business model is pay-and-spray.


    Ok I'm leaving now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 9:07am

    Sounds bad for the case against mega

    Seems like a good ruling for mega, and no so for the USA getting extradition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      NotTheSame, 24 Feb 2017 @ 10:05am

      Re: Sounds bad for the case against mega

      It's not the same.

      The U.S. government claims to have email that they allege show the execs knew about copyrighted content on their hosting site and lauded it as a source of revenue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 10:52am

        Re: Re: Sounds bad for the case against mega

        That is a gross mischaractization of the email. Saying what do we have to do to not be liable is in no way the same thing. Yes, they knew some people misused the service, and that email was about making sure those files would be taken down when notified.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 24 Feb 2017 @ 9:44am

    This is why I love living in Arizona.

    Half the time our legislature comes up with something that is a net-increase in freedom, the other half the time they're dreaming up some idiocy that has even the Chinese govenment going 'why didn't we think of that'. At least its not the constant tightening of the ratchet 'just a little more' that's so prevalent elsewhere. In Arizona, they look to make that frog jump.

    Go big or go home or something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 10:24am

    Where does contributory negligence end?

    Where does contributory negligence end?

    If there's a bank robbery...

    Like another poster said, can we blame the government for making roads, which makes it easy to get away?

    Can we blame Ford making the getaway car? They should have known that their products could be used for illegal activities and they should have built in more protection. You know, like Napster and other file-sharing software.

    Can we blame the DMV for giving Joe Robber a driver's license? He may not have driven the getaway car if he didn't have a license.

    Or why not blame Joe Robber's parents for not raising him correctly. Maybe he wouldn't have robbed the bank if they had raised him right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 5:42pm

    Hosting Not Same Thing As Contributory Infringement

    Unless your name is Kim Dotcom. Then it absolutely is. In fact, it's criminal!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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