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Piracy The Courts

Court Grants RIAA Summary Judgment Motions vs. Limewire 170

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-the-man dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "District Court Judge Kimba Wood has granted some of the RIAA's key summary judgment motions in Arista Records v. Lime Group. In her 59-page decision (PDF), she found Lime Group itself, as well as its CEO and a separate company, liable for intentionally inducing Limewire users to infringe plaintiffs' copyrights. The decision was not a final judgment, so it is not appealable. Additionally, it denied summary judgment on certain issues, and did not address any possible damages."
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Court Grants RIAA Summary Judgment Motions vs. Limewire

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  • Re:In Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yez70 (924200) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:35AM (#32189566)
    Actually - it IS NOT illegal to download anything. Stop trying to distort the truth. It does not say that anywhere in this judgement and it does not say that anywhere in the law. The issue is distribution - not downloading. The only illegal issue is the 'unauthorized distribution' as in uploading or sharing copyrighted files with others without authorization from the copyright owners. There is nothing wrong with downloading a file to check it out. It is no different than opening a magazine to see if you want to buy it at the store. You are not stealing the magazine, you're just looking at it. Photocopying the magazine AND giving it to someone else would be illegal though - get it?
  • Re:In Summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by McBeer (714119) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:36AM (#32189572) Homepage

    I guess what I'm really not getting is, if Joe Schmo gets caught using his 1979 Impala to haul illegal copies of Free Willy DVDs, will the RIAA/MPAA sue Chevrolet?

    If Chevy was actively advertising how many illegal DVDs you can fit in the car and DVD bootlegging in Impalas ran rampant maybe. Otherwise, they are probably safe. It seems to come down to if a product is used mainly for illegal activity and the manufacturer encourages that illegal activity. Google's and Chevy's products serve mostly legal purposes. Limewire and co have some legal uses, but mostly are used for illegal file sharing. It's a somewhat nebulous issue since it's hard to say what "mainly used for" and "encouraging" actually mean. The courts seem to be busily establishing case law for that though.

  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:51AM (#32189624)

    One of the judgments was on unfair competition.

    Really?

    REALLY? /me holds up a mirror to the Board of Directors of the RIAA

    I need a new irony meter. Mine just exploded.

    --
    BMO

    P.S. I will honor the RIAA as a legal entity when The Romantics see a dime for "What I Like About You"

  • Re:In Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingSkippus (799657) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:59AM (#32189660) Homepage Journal

    If Chevy was actively advertising how many illegal DVDs you can fit in the car...

    Well, that's just it. I've looked pretty thoroughly at Limewire's web site [limewire.com], and I'm just not seeing any reference at all to illegal downloads. In fact, the site looks on the surface to be pretty vanilla corporate-type design. Maybe the judge has some kind of smoking gun I'm just not seeing, but as far as I know, Limewire has never advertised itself as a product you should use to download files illegally. (But granted, being a commercial implementation of something I can get for free without adware infestation, I've never looked too closely into it.)

    ...and DVD bootlegging in Impalas ran rampant maybe.

    Well, another analogy I can think of is the sale and use of so-called "Saturday night special" [wikipedia.org] handguns. In spite of their prevalent use in criminal activities, a lawsuit against them was dismissed in 2003, and they remain largely unregulated today.

    Not saying that they should or shouldn't, I'm just saying that it seems to me that it's awful inconsistent to pass summary judgment--as in, they didn't even get a trial--when other companies that specialize in providing stuff that is foreseeably used quite often, if not mostly, in illegal activities gets a free pass. Hell, if I wanted to, I could even buy a set of lockpicks [amazon.com] and go to town. (Or more to the point, go to your house.)

  • Re:In Summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cgenman (325138) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:24AM (#32189742) Homepage

    IANAL, but that position is pretty thin.

    For one, illegal or not the RIAA sues people using tracked downloads as evidence of filesharing. It will either cost you 10k to settle, or at least 10k in legal fees. In practical terms then, there definitely is something wrong in downloading a file to check it out, and it will be viable evidence against you in a court of law.

    For another, you're not opening a magazine to see if you want to buy it or not. You're inducing copyright infringement to get an illegal copy. Even if it is to "decide if you want to buy," the fact remains that someone violated copyright at your request, and that you most definitely knew it was going to happen. At minimum, that makes you guilty of being an accessory to copyright infringement, inducing copyright infringement, and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, which have been ruled illegal in various locals at various times. Further, an overpaid lawyer could easily argue that the copy being made at your request makes you a joint principle in the act. Pressing "download" on bittorrent is like pressing the copy button on a xerox, irrespective of who owns the xerox and who loaded the book into the copier. A skilled lawyer would argue that the uploader isn't making any copies at all, they're just holding up a book saying "come make copies of this." The downloaders are the ones who bring their little xerox machines, and suddenly have identical bits on their computers.

    Maybe a real lawyer could chime in on this subject (please?). But things definitely aren't as black-and-white as "uploading is illegal, downloading is legal."

  • Re:In Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:18AM (#32189916) Journal

    It may be considered illegal to distribute copyrighted material withouth the copyright owner's explicit authorization if and only if you don't do it for personal use alone and you enjoy a financial profit from it.

    This is a common misconception among pirates, and it is completely wrong. At least four different things are taken into consideration when it comes to fair use [wikipedia.org], among those are how much of the work is being used. A complete copy of an item is not likely to fall under fair use. A 30 second clip on iTunes probably (but not necessarily) would.

    If you want to see how the court handles an argument similar to yours, check out this case [wikipedia.org]. They decided strongly against the defendant, and even addressed your claim of 'personal use:'

    [The defendant] was not engaged in a nonprofit use; she downloaded (and kept) whole copyrighted songs (for which, as with poetry, copying of more than a couplet or two is deemed excessive); and she did this despite the fact that these works often are sold per song as well as per album.

    So once again, if you want to download songs, it is up to you, but don't do it under the illusion that it's in any way legal.

  • Re:In Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:32AM (#32189972)

    In practical terms then, there definitely is something wrong in downloading a file to check it out, and it will be viable evidence against you in a court of law.

    For another, you're not opening a magazine to see if you want to buy it or not. You're inducing copyright infringement to get an illegal copy. Even if it is to "decide if you want to buy," the fact remains that someone violated copyright at your request, and that you most definitely knew it was going to happen. At minimum, that makes you guilty of being an accessory to copyright infringement, inducing copyright infringement, and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, which have been ruled illegal in various locals at various times.

    Your entire argument is retarded. First, you're using language (accessory) to a criminal offense, not a civil one -- which AFAIK, copyright infringement is.

    Second, going by your argument, if you were responsible for downloads, every time you open a webpage, you would open yourself up to liability. Who owns that font? Who owns that clipart? Or those jpegs? Haven't you ever heard of websites using other website author's templates, either knowingly or unknowingly. Should you the browser be liable then? Browsing is downloading, although we have been conditioned to associated so-called "illegal downloading" with music/movies -- in fact copyright would protect everything down to the lowly font, jpeg, and animated gif.

    A downloader is not responsible to know whether the place he is downloading from owns/licensed proper copyright. Moralely perhaps, but legally he should not, if for nothing else because it would be impossible to ascertain all the elements are owned by said parties and in many cases impossible to know beforehand.

  • Re:google is next (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cgenman (325138) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:53AM (#32190034) Homepage

    Under most legal systems, there are codified common sense notions. A physicist could argue that when applying muscular force to a finger, they couldn't be sure that this would move a metal bar, which would release a spring, which would cause a spark, which would ignite a sulfurous potassium nitrate solution, which would increase the air pressure behind a metallic tube, which would accelerate the tube along the x-axis at a rapid rate, which would strike a subsequent object, which would cause soft tissue damage. But a court would say that they knew they were going to kill someone when they fired a gun. The apparent motivation doesn't need to be scientifically proven, it just needs to be beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Similarly, if someone released a search engine that simply queried google with torrent, and advertised as the best place to find hollywood releases, they'd be guilty of inducing infringement. Beyond a reasonable doubt, that modified search engine is there to search for illegal content.

    Just because they're offering a subset of a larger feature set doesn't mean that they're OK, or that the larger feature set would be illegal. To torture an analogy: If you offer a gun for sale, it can be used for a wide variety of illegal and legal actions. The courts have ruled in the US that there are enough legal uses for guns in general that selling them is not inducement to crime. However, if you offered a gun that could only shoot homeowners during robberies, your featureset and viable uses would be narrowed such that a reasonable person would think that gun was being sold in order to commit a crime. If you offered a gun that could only shoot Jewish homeowners during robberies, you might similarly be guilty of inducement to commit a hate crime.

    Limewire had a product that they advertised to college students as where you go to get MP3's. They extensively supported MP3 tagging and naming in their interface. They had a system for filtering out illegal music, which was off by default, and a second system for filtering out music purchased from Limewire's partners, which was not disableable. In short, they knew of the infringement on their system, promoted themselves as a platform for that infringement, and took steps to prevent just the infringement on their own copyrights while allowing the rest. That's enough for a reasonable person to think that Limewire is specifically encouraging breaking the law on their platform.

  • Re:In Summary (Score:1, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:56AM (#32190048)

    Downloading a file you do not have a legal right to access is illegal.
    Just as it is illegal to sneak into a theater even if it had unlimited open seats.
    It is theft.
    No, it does not matter that no physical object was taken.

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