Does MySpace Care About Copyrights?

I. Introduction

They
probably should because Universal Music Group ("UMG") recently filed a
copyright infringement lawsuit against the popular social-networking
website. [1].  Myspace.com is alleged to allow its users to post and
share UMG's videos and songs without permission. [2].  UMG wants an
injunction against MySpace and a hefty damage award of $150,000 for
each individual copyright infringement violation. [3].

II. Analysis

UMG
says that MySpace’s content is “user stolen” intellectual property of
others and that “MySpace is aiding copyright infringement by
reformatting clips so users can transfer them to friends or post them
to other sites.” [4].  UMG attorney’s stated in their complaint that
“[d]efendants have made infringement free and easy. [They have] turned
MySpace Videos into a vast virtual warehouse for pirated copies of
music videos and songs." [5].

It is not like MySpace has been sitting around doing nothing to help
detect the copyright violations.  In October, they licensed
“fingerprinting technology from Gracenote
to help prevent unauthorized music from landing on the site. The
filtering system, which launched on Friday, is designed to automate the
removal of unauthorized works from the site once they have been flagged
by copyright holders.” [6].  This did not seem to be enough for UMG and
they filed about two weeks ago. 

UMG and MySpace have been negotiating.  But talks ended about a week
prior to UMG’s filing. [7]. The last straw seemed to be when MySpace
allowed an unreleased video from rapper Jay-Z.  [8].

If UMG’s suit is successful, there could be a big problem for all of
the free services out there that allow users to post videos and music
at will.  The issue to be dealt with in this case, and could easily be
applied to other companies that conduct similar business, is whether
MySpace can be held liable for their users’ copyright violations.

The answer to this depends on how the MGM v. Grokster case is
interpreted. [9].  The court said that copyright violations turn on
fine points like whether the service is capable of substantial
non-infringing use, and whether the defendant can block infringements
and failed to do so. [10].
The court said that Grokster and
StreamCast (both defendants in the case) could be held liable because
there was evidence of "unequivocal indications of unlawful purpose" and
because "neither company attempted to develop filtering tools or other
mechanisms to diminish the infringing activity using their software."
[11].  The ultimate holding of this case was that “one who distributes
a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as
shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster
infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third
parties.” [12].

III. Conclusion

So MySpace’s best defenses are its implementation of the
fingerprinting technology and the safe harbor provision under the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act which was designed to protect sites
that allow the public to communicate or conduct trade, videos and songs
in this case, without accepting liability for user misconduct.  [13]. 

[1] IP360.com, UMG Files Copyright Infringement Suit Against MySpace, http://ip.law360.com/Members/ViewArticlePortion.aspx?Id=138022& (November 20, 2006).

[2] Id.

[3] Don Jeffrey, Universal Sues MySpace on Copyright Charge, Bloomberg, Nov. 17, 2006, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aKkqRuMU_Bek&refer=us.

[4] Greg Sandoval, Universal Sues MySpace for Copyright Violations, CNET News, Nov. 17, 2006, http://news.com.com/Universal+sues+MySpace+for+copyright+violations/2100-1030_3-6136829.html.

[5] Id.; See also http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/ip/umgmyspace111706cmp.html (copy of UMG’s complaint).

[6] Greg Sandoval, Universal Sues MySpace for Copyright Violations, CNET News, Nov. 17, 2006, http://news.com.com/Universal+sues+MySpace+for+copyright+violations/2100-1030_3-6136829.html.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005).

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id. at 929.

[13] 17 U.S.C. §§ 1201-1202 (2000).

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