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A&M v Napster DMCA ruling

A&M v Napster DMCA ruling

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Published by flohmann
First ruling in the A&M v. Napster case, relating to DMCA safe harbors.
First ruling in the A&M v. Napster case, relating to DMCA safe harbors.

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Published by: flohmann on Oct 04, 2007
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Not Reported in F.Supp.2d Page 12000 Copr.L.Dec. P 28,072, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d 1746
(Cite as: 2000 WL 573136 (N.D.Cal.))
United States District Court, N.D. California.A & M RECORDS, INC., a corporation; GeffenRecords, Inc., a corporation;Interscope Records, a general partnership; SonyMusic Entertainment Inc., acorporation; MCA Records, a corporation; AtlanticRecording Corporation, acorporation; Island Records, Inc., a corporation;Motown Record Company L.P., alimited partnership; Capitol Records Inc., acorporation; La Face Records, a joint venture; BMG Music d/b/a the RCA RecordsLabel, a general partnership;Universal Records Inc., a corporation; ElektraEntertainment Group Inc., acorporation; Arista Records, Inc., a corporation; SireRecords Group Inc., acorporation; Virgin Records America Inc., acorporation; and Warner Bros.Records Inc., a corporation, Plaintiff(s),v.NAPSTER, INC., Defendant(s).
No. C 99-05183 MHP.
May 12, 2000.
OPINION 
 PATEL,Chief J.  
*1
On December 6, 1999, plaintiff record companiesfiled suit alleging contributory and vicarious federalcopyright infringement and related state lawviolations by defendant Napster, Inc. ("Napster").Now before this court is defendant's motion forsummary adjudication of the applicability of a safeharbor provision of the Digital Millennium CopyrightAct ("DMCA"), 17 U.S.C. section 512(a),to its business activities. Defendant argues that the entireNapster system falls within the safe harbor and,hence, that plaintiffs may not obtain monetarydamages or injunctive relief, except as narrowlyspecified by subparagraph 512(j)(1)(B). In thealtemative, Napster asks the court to find subsection512(a) applicable to its role in downloading MP3music files,[FN1]as opposed to searching for orindexing such files. Having considered the parties'arguments and for the reasons set forth below, thecourt enters the following memorandum and order.FN1.The Motion Picture Experts Groupfirst created MP3 in the early 1980s as theaudio layer 3 of the MPEG-1 audiovisualformat. MP3 technology allows for the fastand efficient conversion of compact discrecordings into computer files that may bedownloaded over the Internet.
See
 
1072, 1073-74 (9th Cir.1999)(discussingMP3 technology). 
 BACKGROUND
______ Napster--a small Internet start-up based inSan Mateo, California-makes its proprietaryMusicShare software freely available for Internetusers to download. Users who obtain Napster'ssoftware can then share MP3 music files with otherslogged-on to the Napster system. MP3 files, whichreproduce nearly CD-quality sound in a compressedformat, are available on a variety of websites eitherfor a fee or free-of-charge. Napster allows users toexchange MP3 files stored on their own computerhard-drives directly, without payment, and boasts thatit "takes the frustration out of locating servers withMP3 files." Def. Br. at 4.Although the parties dispute the precise nature of theservice Napster provides, they agree that usingNapster typically involves the following basic steps:After downloading MusicShare software from theNapster website, a user can access the Napster systemfrom her computer. The MusicShare softwareinteracts with Napster's server-side software when the
 
Not Reported in F.Supp.2d Page 22000 Copr.L.Dec. P 28,072, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d 1746
(Cite as: 2000 WL 573136 (N.D.Cal.))
user logs on, automatically connecting her to one of some 150 servers that Napster operates. TheMusicShare software reads a list of names of MP3files that the user has elected to make available. Thislist is then added to a directory and index, on theNapster server, of MP3 files that users who arelogged-on wish to share. If the user wants to locate asong, she enters its name or the name of the recordingartist on the search page of the MusicShare programand clicks the "Find It" button. The Napster softwarethen searches the current directory and generates alist of files responsive to the search request. Todownload a desired file, the user highlights it on thelist and clicks the "Get Selected Song(s)" button. Theuser may also view a list of files that exist on anotheruser's hard drive and select a file from that list. Whenthe requesting user clicks on the name of a file, theNapster server communicates with the requestinguser's and host user's [FN2] MusicShare browser software to facilitate a connection between the twousers and initiate the downloading of the file withoutany further action on either user's part.FN2. Napster uses the term "host user" torefer to the user who makes the desired MP3file available for downloading. 
*2
According to Napster, when the requesting userclicks on the name of the desired MP3 file, theNapster server routes this request to the host user'sbrowser. The host user's browser responds that iteither can or cannot supply the file. If the host usercan supply the file, the Napster server communicatesthe host's address and routing information to therequesting user's browser, allowing the requestinguser to make a connection with the host and receivethe desired MP3 file.
See
Declaration of EdwardKessler ("Kessler Dec."), Exh. B; Reply Declarationof Edward Kessler ("Kessler Reply Dec.")
22. Theparties disagree about whether this process involves ahypertext link that the Napster server-side softwareprovides.
Compare
Pl. Br. at 9
with
Def. Reply Br. at10 n.12. However, plaintiffs admit that the Napsterserver gets the necessary IP address information fromthe host user, enabling the requesting user to connectto the host.
See
Declaration of Daniel Farmer("Farmer Dec.")
17; Declaration of Russell. J.Frackman ("Frackman Dec."), Exh. 1 (Kessler Dep.)at 103-05. The MP3 file is actually transmitted overthe Internet,
see, e.g.,
Def. Reply Br. at 3, but thesteps necessary to make that connection could nottake place without the Napster server.The Napster system has other functions besidesallowing users to search for, request, and downloadMP3 files. For example, a requesting user can play adownloaded song using the MusicShare software.Napster also hosts a chat room.Napster has developed a policy that makescompliance with all copyright laws one of the "termsof use" of its service and warns users that:Napster will terminate the accounts of users whoare repeat infringers of the copyrights, or otherintellectual property rights, of others. In addition,Napster reserves the right to terminate the accountof a user upon any single infringement of the rightsof others in conjunction with use of the Napsterservice.Kessler Dec.
19. However, the parties disagreeover when this policy was instituted and howeffectively it bars infringers from using the Napsterservice. Napster claims that it had a copyrightcompliance policy as early as October 1999, butadmits that it did not document or notify users of theexistence of this policy until February 7, 2000.________
 LEGAL STANDARD
The court may grant summary adjudication of aparticular claim or defense under the same standardsused to consider a summary judgment motion.
See
1025, 1029-30 (9th Cir.1975). Summary judgmentshall be granted when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
 
Not Reported in F.Supp.2d Page 32000 Copr.L.Dec. P 28,072, 54 U.S.P.Q.2d 1746
(Cite as: 2000 WL 573136 (N.D.Cal.))
as a matter of law.
See
Fed. R. Civ. 56(c).The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record thatdemonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The burden then shifts to thenonmoving party to "go beyond the pleadings, and by[its] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers tointerrogatories, or admissions on file,' designate'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issuefor trial." ' 
(1986)(citations omitted). A dispute about a materialfact is genuine "if the evidence is such that areasonable jury could return a verdict for thenonmoving party." 
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving partydischarges its burden by showing that the nonmovingparty has not disclosed the existence of any"significant probative evidence tending to support thecomplaint." 
U.S. 253, 290 (1968).The court does not makecredibility determinations in considering a motion forsummary judgment.
See
 
Rather, it views the inferences drawn from the facts inthe light most favorable to the party opposing themotion.
See
 
. 
 DISCUSSION 
 
*3
 Section 512of the DMCA addresses the liabilityof online service and Internet access providers forcopyright infringements occurring online. Subsection512(a) exempts qualifying service providers frommonetary liability for direct, vicarious, andcontributory infringement and limits injunctive relief to the degree specified in subparagraph 512(j)(1)(B).Interpretation of subsection 512(a), or indeed any of thesection 512safe harbors, appears to be an issue of first impression.[FN3]FN3. In 
(S.D.N.Y 2000),one defendant soughtprotection under subsection 512(c).Although the court noted in passing that thedefendant offered no evidence that he was aservice provider under subsection 512(c), itheld that he could not invoke the safe harborbecause plaintiffs claimed violations of 17 U.S.C. section 1201(a), which applies tocircumvention products and technologies,rather than copyright infringement.Napster claims that its business activities fall withinthe safe harbor provided by subsection 512(a). Thissubsection limits liability "for infringement of copyright by reason of the [service] provider'stransmitting, routing, or providing connections for,material through a system or network controlled oroperated by or for the service provider, or by reasonof the intermediate and transient storage of thatmaterial in the course of such transmitting, routing,or providing connections," if five conditions aresatisfied:(1) the transmission of the material was initiated byor at the direction of a person other than the serviceprovider;(2) the transmission, routing, provision of connections, or storage is carried out through anautomatic technical process without selection of the material by the service provider;(3) the service provider does not select therecipients of the material except as an automaticresponse to the request of another person;(4) no copy of the material made by the serviceprovider in the course of such intermediate ortransient storage is maintained on the system ornetwork in a manner ordinarily accessible toanyone other than the anticipated recipients, and nosuch copy is maintained on the system or network in a manner ordinarily accessible to suchanticipated recipients for a longer period than isreasonably necessary for the transmission, routing,or provision of connections; and(5) the material is transmitted through the systemor network without modification of its content.

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