Court Rules DMCA Safe Harbor Covers Pre-1972 Recordings For Online Hosts
June 16, 2016 at 9:47 AM (PT)
The 2nd CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS has just ruled that the DIGITAL MILLENNIUM COPYRIGHT ACT’s safe harbors protect online hosts like VIMEO from liability for pre-1972 recordings that aren’t covered by federal copyright law, the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER and LAW 360 report. The decision gives the tech community further immunization from copyright liability.
CAPITOL RECORDS and others sued the BARRY DILLER-owned VIMEO in 2009, when VIACOM was battling YOUTUBE over how to interpret the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, which allows ISPs to escape copyright claims so long as they remove infringements expeditiously and not have actual knowledge of infringements on their networks. The YOUTUBE spat has since been settled. In this case, The SECOND CIRCUIT ruled that the DMCA’s safe harbors also protects online hosts like VIMEO -- and ruling to the contrary would "defeat the very purpose" of the law.
"A literal and natural reading of the text of § 512(c) leads to the conclusion that its use of the phrase 'infringement of copyright' does include infringement of state laws of copyright," wrote 2nd Circuit judge PIERRE LEVAL. "To interpret § 512(c)’s guarantee that service providers 'shall not be liable ... for infringement of copyright' to mean that they may nonetheless be liable for infringement of copyright under state laws would be, at the very least, a strained interpretation — one that could be justified only by concluding that CONGRESS must have meant something different from what it said."
The record companies argued that the decision in VIACOM V. YOUTUBE was misapplied, that VIMEO monitored videos for infringement of visual but not audio content, and that not only was it aware of the likelihood of infringement, VIMEO encouraged users to post infringing matter. Instead of investigating potential infringement, it essentially chose to look the other way.
"If the service provider knows of the infringement, or learns of facts and circumstances that make infringement obvious, it must act expeditiously to take down the infringing matter, or lose the protection of the safe harbor," the Court ruled. "But we can see no reason to construe the statute as vitiating the protection of § 512(m) and requiring investigation merely because the service provider learns facts raising a obvious. Protecting service providers from the expense of monitoring was an important part of the compromise embodied in the safe harbor."
The case goes back to the district court as a new guide post for copyright owners and digital service providers.