A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC

Universal Copyright Knowledge: No Red Flags for Veoh

Think the DMCA Is Outmoded? Complain to Congress, Not to the Courts

This is the second post on the recent Ninth Circuit opinion in the “Veoh case” (actually styled, UMG Recordings v. Shelter Capital). Last time, we focused on (marveled at, really) Universal’s surprising leading argument: that pretty much any website that makes user-uploaded content publicly accessible (with a probable exception for pure displayed text) is not covered by the DMCA safe harbor on grounds that the safe harbor covers only passive storage, not display, performance or internal copying. We also worried about the fate of user-created videos of cute kittens.

In this post, we’ll look at one of Universal’s two remaining arguments, which are much more conventional.

Recall that, to be eligible for the DMCA safe harbor governing user-provided content, the website must meet three general requirements: (1) a knowledge requirement (or, more accurately, an ignorance requirement); (2) a financial-benefit requirement (or, more accurately, a financial-non-benefit requirement); and (3) a notice-and-takedown requirement (which is intertwined with the first requirement*). Universal attacked both the knowledge and financial-benefit requirements.

* As we’ll see next time, it turns out all three requirements are intertwined with each other.

This Mess We’re In

The main policy point is: who…

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UMG Swings for the Copyright Fences … And Misses Everything

Ninth Circuit: It’s OK to Let the Public Access User-Uploaded Content

I think by now you’ve read a few headlines about Ninth Circuit’s decision in UMG Recordings v. Shelter Capital, which is better known as the “Veoh case,” just before Christmas. Mostly, the headlines say something like: Veoh Dodges Universal Music’s Copyright Claims, or Universal Loses DMCA Lawsuit Against Veoh.

But when you read the opinion, you should be struck by two things that have nothing to do with Veoh. First, Universal Music wasn’t just trying to get some compensation from a specific video site–it was trying to put video sites out of business. There’s no other way to explain the strategic choices Universal Music made. Second, as a result, in part, of Universal Music’s choices, the Ninth Circuit has just made Viacom’s life a lot harder for its case against YouTube.

Understanding Universal’s Peculiar Legal Strategy

If you’ve been reading my blogs on the DMCA defense (mostly in connection with the Nashville lawsuit against Grooveshark), you know that, even after 12 years, there are several very basic unanswered questions about DMCA safe-harbor protection. Off the top of my head, the most significant are:

What does it mean to have actual knowledge of infringement,…

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ReDigi Finale: Comparing Apples to Amazons (Part 20 in Our Online Music Services Series)

And Other Loose Ends.

This is going to be (I hope) the last post about the ReDigi situation, at least for a while. I’ll admit I got distracted by the RIAA’s little missive to ReDigi. I want to sum up and wrap up. First, the summing:

The Three Legal Obstacles to a Digital First-Sale Right

Looking over the five (!) previous posts about ReDigi, we see three obstacles to its legality:

Do the consumers who wish to sell their digital singles actually own, or merely license, the music files? That’s what Vernor helps us answer, as discussed here.
Is the First-Sale Doctrine limited to the same physical item that was the subject of the “first sale”? I discuss this question here and here.
By what right can ReDigi make the temporary, intermediate copies necessary to transfer the song file? I discuss this issue here and here.

So. There. Now, let’s tie up a few loose ends.

What About Amazon?

When I first discussed whether ReDigi’s system could comply with Vernor (to answer the question of whether the potential sellers “own” the digital downloads), I focused exclusively on the iTunes Store license agreement. I did so because (1) iTunes by far the most popular source of legal digital downloads,…

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ReDigi Redux: Essentials of the Essential Step Defense (Part 16 of our Online Music Services Series)

Digital Content: Dumb Data or Clever Instructor?

I received so many comments on my ReDigi post that I need to write a couple of follow-up posts to address the good questions. This post and the next will focus on questions raised about the fact that ReDigi needs to make an intermediate copy of the song files, and the one after that will clean up some lingering issues about the first sale doctrine itself.

The Intermediate Copy

My last post was focused on the first-sale doctrine and the Vernor decision, but several people pointed out that, in order to transfer a music file from the seller to the buyer, ReDigi has to make at least one intermediate copy. It doesn’t matter ReDigi erases the seller’s copy of the file at the same time it makes a copy of the file on its own server–it’s still making a copy, and making a copy requires exercise of the reproduction right. See Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc., 977 F.2d 1510 (9th Cir. 1992). So, assuming ReDigi isn’t licensed* and assuming ReDigi may avail itself of the first-sale doctrine**, what defense might it have against a claim that this intermediate copy is an infringement?

* And I don’t know if this is an accurate assumption. No…

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ReDigi RIAA ReDux: New Wine, Old Skins (Part 19 of Our Online Music Services Series)

What Old Cases Don’t Teach us About New Tricks

In my last post, we started to look at the legal claims made by the RIAA in the demand letter it sent to ReDigi. We focused on the plain language and legislative history of the first-sale statute–banged our heads against it, really. I concluded that the statute is simply not equipped to resolve a situation in which a digital download is sold by its owner (under Vernor) by sending it to the buyer over the internet while simultaneously removing the song file from the seller’s storage.

The RIAA will argue that the statute’s failure means victory for it: if the first-sale statute does not specifically provide for digital transfers, then they must fall outside the statute’s scope. ReDigi will argue that the statute shouldn’t be so rigidly and technically applied. Its purpose is to facilitate re-sale (and re-transfer) of copies that had previously been sold. The only reason the statute seems so limited is that it was only codifying old case law, and the case law, by its very nature, couldn’t predict how the technology for re-transferring digital content would evolve.

In its demand letter, the RIAA also cited three legal opinions, for…

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