A $675,000 Damages Award for Illegal File Sharing: Joel Tenenbaum’s Ferocious Battle Against the Music Industry

By Vlad Vidaeff *

Part 1: Background and The District Court’s Decision

In June of 1999, Napster burst onto the scene and quickly attracted the hearts of high school and college students across the country.  Napster was originally a peer-to-peer file sharing network, where users could download mp3 songs from other users for free.  The network essentially made it quick and easy to download practically any song within seconds without having to pay a dime.  This scheme appealed to many young Americans who were distraught with the high prices of CD’s, which commonly sold for about $15 at the time.  Napster was a way to ‘stick it to the man’ by getting back at the music industry.  By 2001, however, Napster lost a copyright infringement suit and closed its doors (at least free access) to its millions of minions.  In the meantime, other networks have risen over the years to offer similar perks including AudioGalaxy, Morpheus, Kazaa, and Limewire. Continue reading »

Combating Online Piracy: A Growing Threat with No Clear Plan of Attack

By Tierryicah Mitchell *

On August 30, Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke delivered a speech at Belmont University in which he laid down the Obama Administration’s views on the “rampant piracy of music, and . . . intellectual property.”  Locke, echoing the words of Vice President Joe Biden, stated that, “‘piracy is flat, unadulterated theft,’ and should be dealt with accordingly.”  I wonder exactly how the government is planning to deal with this problem.  In a technological world that is in a constant state of change, it seems almost impossible to find a way to effectively deal with the ever evolving and increasing cases of online piracy.  Wouldn’t any law put in place become obsolete (or at the very least, not as effective) within a matter of years, if not amended to reflect the latest innovations in online piracy?  The obvious answer is, of course, yes.  However, not so apparent is the notion that frequency does not necessarily guarantee that the law (amended or otherwise) will be effective in practice. Continue reading »

Einstein on Copyright: Professorial Lectures and the Future of Commercial Note-Taking Services

By Dirk Lasater

As an alumnus of the University of Florida, I was educated in a collegiate system that held huge classes for general education requirements.  With nearly 50,000 students, the university was forced to consolidate these large humanity, science, and math courses to class sizes of nearly 300 students, in some instances.  This same scenario can be seen at most large, public universities across the nation.  This problem in classroom size has become an issue with regard to commercial note-taking services.  Commercial note-taking services flourish in these large university settings and provide comprehensive notes taken by students from previous years to current students for a fee.  Given the ease in transmission of intellectual property over vast networks on the internet, copyright infringement issues have emerged with regard to these professorial lectures.  Questions have arisen regarding both (1) student notes as potential copyright infringement, and (2) sales of these notes by commercial services, such as Einstein’s Notes. Continue reading »

WTO Resolves IP Conflicts after Uncle Sam TRIPS on the Great Wall of China

By Blake P. Hurt

In my opinion, the difference in Intellectual Property (“IP”) protections between nations has been a thorn in the side of the business community since globalization became the name of the game after WWII.  I believe this issue is especially vexing to countries like the United States, who gained economic superiority through industrialization in the last century and now seeks to maintain its position in the new millennium.  Perhaps the most difficult challenge facing this pursuit is how to protect valuable innovation while outsourcing manufacturing and production overseas to maintain low costs.  A perfect example of this struggle is the current dispute between China and the United States in the World Trade Organization (“WTO”). Continue reading »

A Crushing Tackle by the Supreme Court: Why the NFL's Dreams of Antitrust Exemption Were Shattered

By Vlad Vidaeff *

1922. This was the year the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Major League Baseball (“MLB”) was not subject to the provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Baseball’s antitrust exemption essentially meant that each team, such as the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees, was part of a single entity—MLB.  Due to baseball’s antitrust exemption, MLB is able to engage in practices that would often be illegal in other businesses.  After this monumental ruling, common sense dictated that the antitrust exemption would soon be extended to other professional sports leagues such as the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL).

However, since the Federal Baseball decision, the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to extend this antitrust exemption to other sport leagues.  Another opportunity for possible antitrust exemption presented itself in the Supreme Court’s recent decision on May 24, 2010. Continue reading »

ACTA Negotiations Held in Secrecy: How Much Should the Public be Told?

By Alayna Ness *

There’s a new treaty coming.  The United States is busily negotiating with several trading partners to create a “new, state-of-the art agreement to combat counterfeiting and piracy,” known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).  According to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the agreement “aims to establish standards for enforcing intellectual property rights in order to fight more efficiently the growing problem of counterfeiting and piracy.”  ACTA is intended to enhance international cooperation and create effective international standards for enforcing intellectual property rights.  Based on the USTR summary, ACTA will include provisions on civil enforcement of intellectual property rights, border measures, criminal enforcement, and enforcement of intellectual property rights in the digital environment.  Since the negotiations are being conducted in secret, rumors abound as to what all this actually means. Continue reading »

The Battle of Viacom v. YouTube: Is It Possible For Everyone to Win?

By Arlene Mu

On March 18, 2010, both parties moved for summary judgment in the marathon-like copyright infringement case: Viacom International, Inc. v. YouTube, Inc. Viacom is the owner of Paramount Pictures and cable-TV networks, such as MTV and Comedy Central. Viacom alleged that YouTube, which is now owned by Google, knowingly infringed copyrighted works for profit and is now seeking summary judgment in the case.  Meanwhile, Google/YouTube points its finger back at Viacom by alleging Viacom had secretly uploaded copyrighted clips, which Viacom later demanded YouTube remove. In addition, Google/YouTube claims it is shielded under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the DMCA). DMCA provides a defense to copyright infringement for a user-generated content (UGC) host, like YouTube, who has the right and ability to control such activity, but only if the host does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity. Continue reading »

Net Neutrality, Revisited: No Statutory Authority for FCC to Regulate ISP Network Management

By Luke Peterson

Recent efforts by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish rules governing net neutrality were, for the timing being, in vain as the D.C. Circuit held that the FCC lacks a Congressional mandate to establish such regulations.  The case arrived via an appeal from an FCC order prohibiting Comcast from selectively interfering with the connections of peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent. Continue reading »

The Department Of Justice Stakes Out a New Battlefront in IP Law: A Look at the New Task Force on Intellectual Property

By Luke Peterson

In another maneuver in the on-going battle to curb cybercrime the Department of Justice has established a new Task Force on Intellectual Property focused on developing and implementing strategies to prevent intellectual property crimes. Emphasis is placed on the word “new” because both the Clinton and Bush administrations each created task forces to demonstrate their respective commitments to intellectual property. But what can the Task Force do that is not already being done? No one will contend that the previous administrations thought lightly of IP crime, especially in a nation where property rights, while not quite rising to the level of a right to life (with all apologies to Mr. Locke), form a basic element of our conception of freedom. Continue reading »

No ASCAP Material To Be Performed Here

By Lauren Metcalf

On a recent night out at a small wine bar, I walked by an unimpressive piano pushed up against the wall of a narrow hallway with a sign above it reading, “No ASCAP material to be performed here.”  Bad news: signs such as these will not alleviate the owners of a venue from liability for copyright infringement if ASCAP licensed songs are performed without the purchase of a license.   To look charitably on the current state of affairs, one might say that many owners of restaurants, bars, and night clubs are confused (or blithely ignorant) about the whole ASCAP licensing system and are unsure whether or not they need to purchase a license.   Still, there are many venues which knowingly skirt the ASCAP licensing requirements and take the gamble that they won’t get caught and be forced to pay up. Continue reading »