A federal judge in New York should preserve the protections for online service providers provided under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), rather than accede to demands from the entertainment industry which would “turn back the clock” on established copyright enforcement principles, four groups said today in a brief filed with the U.S. District Court in New York City.
The amicus brief is here.
In a case brought by 29 record companies against MP3tunes.com, the groups, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Electronics Association and Home Recording Rights Coalition, said that the faulty interpretations of the law by the entertainment firms could, if upheld in court, would rewrite the 1998 DMCA to industry standards.
MP3tunes.com is a company that allows consumers to upload and store their music in designated “lockers” to be retrieved later from any Internet connection. All of the music stored at the site is done so at the direction of consumers who have created accounts and have uploaded music from their own computers or from other web sites. The record companies claims the site is responsible for massive copyright infringement.
The groups said the court should reject the record companies’ “radical approach, lest copyright liability – including possible liability for standard design decisions – threaten once again to impede legitimate innovation.”
The four groups said in an amicus brief that if the record companies’ view was upheld, the “safe harbor” for online service providers provided by the DMCA (Sec. 512) would be destroyed, taking with it valuable services: “If courts undermine the certainty provided by section 512, they will in effect pull the rug out from underneath service providers that reasonably rely upon section 512 immunity to provide valuable, socially productive services to the public. Under clear standards for immunity, service providers may continue to innovate and bring exciting new services to consumers while knowing exactly their responsibilities under copyright law.”
“If the court rules that some data storage methods infringe copyright, there will be consequences far beyond the particulars of this case,” the groups said, noting that many consumers use Web-based services for e-mail, photo storage and other uses: “If the Court rules that the use of modern storage techniques makes a service directly liable for infringing a copyright owner’s right to publicly perform a work, it could unintentionally cast a shadow of legal peril over a large and growing sector of the economy.”
The record companies had argued that MP3Tunes.com didn’t qualify for the “safe harbor” because it didn’t implement a “repeat infringer” policy. Refuting the allegation of copyright infringement, the groups noted that under the DMCA, “The allegations detailed in a takedown notice are exactly that: allegations, no more and no less. Accordingly, takedown notices cannot create an obligation upon the service provider to entirely terminate service for a user.”
While the recording companies also argued that MP3tunes.com violated copyright law prohibitions against “public performances” of music, the groups maintained that the site does not transmit music to the public, but only to the users who had stored it in their private lockers at the site.
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