Roadshow v iiNet 2

Last month, iiNet (by the skin of its teeth) avoided being found liable for authorising the P2P infringing activities of users of its internet access services.

Kim Weatherall and Ass. Pro. David Brennan provide their respective initial takes here and here.

Perhaps in recognition that iiNet (and pretty much any other ISP) will be in big trouble if they sit on their hands when the next letter of demand comes in from AFACT notice comes in, Meanwhile on 11 March, the Internet Industries Association has announced that it is “fastracking” development of an industry code to deal with copyright infringement.

iiNet still wins

Appeal dismissed:

Roadshow Films Pty Limited v iiNet Limited [2011] FCAFC 23

SMH report

However, Jagot J dissented and Emmett J warned:

Even though the Copyright Owners are not entitled to the relief claimed in this proceeding, it does not follow that that is an end of the matter.  It is clear that the questions raised in the proceeding are ongoing.  It does not necessarily follow that there would never be authorisation within the meaning of s 101 of the Copyright Act by a carriage service provider, where a user of the services provided by the carriage service provider engages in acts of infringement such as those about which complaint is made in this proceeding.  It does not necessarily follow from the failure of the present proceeding that circumstances could not exist whereby iiNet might in the future be held to have authorised primary acts of infringement on the part of users of the services provided to its customers under its customer service agreements.

Lid dip: Sarah Matheson

ISPs, authorisation and copyright DownUnder

In case you have been on Mars, or locked in a conference room writing submissions, you have probably heard that the Federal Court has rejected the music industry’s attempt to impose liability on iiNet, and ISP, for copyright infringement by authorising the infringing activities of users of its network.

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Limited (No. 3) [2010] FCA 24 (636 para judgment) here.

Since I will find myself still locked in aforesaid conference room, I’ll simply quote (at this stage) from the 21 para summary:

 

The first step in making a finding of authorisation was to determine whether certain iiNet users infringed copyright. I have found that they have. However, in reaching that finding, I have found that the number of infringements that have occurred are significantly fewer than the number alleged by the applicants. This follows from my finding that, on the evidence and on a proper interpretation of the law, a person makes each film available online only once through the BitTorrent system and electronically transmits each film only once through that system. This excludes the possible case of a person who might repeatedly download the same file, but no evidence was presented of such unusual and unlikely circumstance. Further, I have found, on the evidence before me, that the iiNet users have made one copy of each film and have not made further copies onto physical media such as DVDs.
The next question was whether iiNet authorised those infringements. While I find that iiNet had knowledge of infringements occurring, and did not act to stop them, such findings do not necessitate a finding of authorisation. I find that iiNet did not authorise the infringements of copyright of the iiNet users. I have reached that conclusion for three primary reasons.
Looks like there will also be interesting obvservations on the operation of the Telecommunications Act and the role of iiNet’s policy vis a vis repeat offenders.

Howard Knopf and Michael Geist look at the decision from Canadian perspectives.

Google and facilitating or authorising

DesignTechnica operates bulletin boards. The plaintiff alleged that some postings on the bulletin boards defamed it. In addition to suing DesignTechnica, the plaintiff sued Google for libel by reproducing snippets of the (allegedly) defamatory material in search results.

Eady J, sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division,  dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against Google on the grounds that Google did not publish the material.

The case obviously turns on the requirements for an action in defamation. Of potential interest in an intellectual property context, however, is that his Lordship noted that the generation of the snippets was automatic, not volitional. Thus, his Lordship analagised Google’s position to the position of someone who merely ‘facilitated’ infringing intellectual property conduct rather than ‘authorised’ it.

In the course of his judgment, his Lordship explained:

54.  The next question is whether the legal position is, or should be, any different once the Third Defendant has been informed of the defamatory content of a “snippet” thrown up by the search engine. In the circumstances before Morland J, in Godfrey v Demon Internet, the acquisition of knowledge was clearly regarded as critical. That is largely because the law recognises that a person can become liable for the publication of a libel by acquiescence; that is to say, by permitting publication to continue when he or she has the power to prevent it. As I have said, someone hosting a website will generally be able to remove material that is legally objectionable. If this is not done, then there may be liability on the basis of authorisation or acquiescence.

55.  A search engine, however, is a different kind of Internet intermediary. It is not possible to draw a complete analogy with a website host. One cannot merely press a button to ensure that the offending words will never reappear on a Google search snippet: there is no control over the search terms typed in by future users. If the words are thrown up in response to a future search, it would by no means follow that the Third Defendant has authorised or acquiesced in that process.

In addition, Eady J noted that Google had promptly blocked access to specific URLs, but could not reasonably be expected to block all search results which could include the (allegedly) infringing snippets.

Metropolitan International Schools Ltd v DesignTechnica [2009] EWHC 1765 (QB).

Lid dip: Prof Goldman

ASCAP, AT&T and ringtones

ASCAP is suing AT&T in the USA for copyright infringements when an AT&T subscriber’s phone plays a ringtone. ASCAP is a collecting society for public performance and broadcast rights. It alleges that when the subscriber receives a phone call in, say, a restaurant and the phone plays a ringtone it is a performance in public that needs a licence.

Fred Lohman from the EFF says this claim is doomed in America. Their copyright act has §110(4) that excludes from the public performance right ‘performances made “without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage.”‘

Why wouldn’t Telstra or Optus or, for that matter, Apple be liable in Australia if APRA or PPCA came calling?

We don’t have a §110(4) so, if you were in a restaurant or walking down Collins St in rush hour and your phone started playing a ringtone you had installed, you the phone owner wouldn’t be able to use Fred Lohman’s escape clause.

So could the phone company or Apple or whoever sold you the ringtone potentially be liable for authorising your infringement (if it be an infringement)? If we are still living in the world where Telstra was liable for the music on hold played by users of Telstra’s network (before the Act was changed by the Digital Agenda Act), the question doesn’t seem so fanciful?

The phone company or whoever could presumably be liable only on the basis of authorising the phone user’s conduct which would have to be infringing in itself. Now, liability for authorisation may not be a foregone conclusion; but in Cooper, the ISP was liable at least in part because it could have prevented the website even operating. Would it make a difference if the alleged authoriser just provided the phone or the ringtone?

One argument might be that if you, the subscriber, paid for and downloaded something described as a “ringtone”, there must be an implied licence. Maybe. But in an awful lot of cases, the person who can give you rights to download and store the ringtone on your phone will not have rights to license the performance right – that right will have been assigned to, you guessed it, APRA or another collecting society. Although APRA and AMCOS now seem to be “almost” the same entity.

Surely, a court would find that, although the ringtone might be heard incidentally in public by unwitting passersby or bystanders, the playing of the ringtone was really in private? Well, maybe. But then why have those exceptions in the Act for incidental uses of things like artistic works in public places (s 65) or reading or recitation of reasonable portions of published literary or dramatic works (s 45)? (At least, you wouldn’t have to pay a licence fee for the lyrics!) and making temporary copies as part of a technical process of use (s 111B)? And there is a specific statutory licence for the playing in public of sound recordings (s 108).

Maybe a court could be persuaded to look a little more liberally at whether or not a ringtone is a substantial part of the original recording? A ringtone afterall can only be 30 seconds in duration. This seems very unlikely given that 8 bars of  Colonel Bogey infringed.

Is there something wrong with the way we legislate specific exceptions for specific technological problems?

Did eBay win?

Some headlines are reporting that L’Oreal lost its trade mark infringement action in the UK against eBay. For example: here, here and here.

The basic facts were that L’Oreal was suing eBay for trade mark infringement as a result of hosting auctions in which vendors were alleged to be selling counterfeit L’Oreal products.

It seems that most of the vendors turned out to be selling parallel imports – imported from outside the European Economic Area – and so they were infringing BUT …

the IPKat reports Arnold J didn’t exonerate eBay, rather his Honour has referred some questions to the European Court of Justice. There may well be a lot more to emerge about Arnold J’s ruling itself – as you’ll see from the IPKat’s update, there are at least 482 paragraphs to scramble through (put our Federal Court to shame (thankfully!)).

From [481]:

iii) eBay Europe are not jointly liable for the infringements committed by the Fourth to Tenth Defendants.

iv) Whether eBay Europe have infringed the Link Marks by use in sponsored links and on the Site in relation to infringing goods again depends upon a number of questions of interpretation of the Trade Marks Directive upon which guidance from the ECJ is required (see paragraphs 388-392, 393-398 and 413-418 above).

v) Whether eBay Europe have a defence under Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive is another matter upon which guidance from the ECJ is needed (see paragraphs 436-443 above).

vi) As a matter of domestic law the court has power to grant an injunction against eBay Europe by virtue of the infringements committed by the Fourth to Tenth Defendants, but the scope of the relief which Article 11 requires national courts to grant in such circumstances is another matter upon which guidance from the ECJ is required (see paragraphs 455-465 above).

L’Oréal v eBay [2009] EWHC 1094 (Ch)

Meanwhile, you’ll recall that Dowsett J held that a market operator is not liable for authorising trade mark infringement when stall holders sell counterfeit products from their stalls.

Louis Vuitton Malletier SA v Toea Pty Ltd [2006] FCA 1443

So far as I am aware, this didn’t go on appeal. Therefore, you  have to bring such allegations within the common law tort of concerted action or ‘procuring or directing’.

iiNet and the movie studios

Some points worth pondering arising from the recent pleadings fight

Both the movie studios and iiNet brought motions for summary judgment and/or to strike parts of the other side’s pleadings relating to the claims that (1) iiNet authorised infringement, (2) iiNet was liable as a primary infringer for actually reproducing the allegedly copied films and (3) whether or not iiNet was also liable in conversion.

The movie companies are obviously suing iiNet for authorising the (alleged) infringing activities of iiNet’s subscribers on a theory similar to the successful theories in Cooper v Universal.

Part of iiNet’s defence is that the notice it received of the claimed infringements were ‘mere allegations of copyright infringement’. The judge considered this sufficient to make iiNet’s point:

56.   The Court has no difficulty in understanding such pleading as being a statement that the AFACT notifications did no more than bring to iiNet’s attention an allegation of copyright infringement. Whether the notifications from DtecNet of alleged infringement are sufficient to prove infringement by iiNet’s users or might be used as evidence that iiNet was aware of the infringement of its users is necessarily a matter requiring evidence and thus is a matter for determination at the hearing. So considered, there is nothing further which needs to be added to the pleading. The Court rejects Roadshow’s assertion that such statement is inadequate.

 That is, iiNet appears to be defending the allegation of authorising copyright infringement in part by contending it did not have sufficient knowledge of what was going on to have the necessary control. As the quote shows, however, whether or not iiNet’s position will be good enough to win the day remains to be seen.

The other fights which are of potentially more general interest relate to the movie companies’ allegations that iiNet is itself a direct or primary infringer (not just an authoriser) or liable in conversion under s 116.

In relation to conversion, the judge considered it wasn’t clear whether the movie companies were alleging that the ‘infringing copies’ alleged to be converted were the data electronically transmitted across iiNet’s network (facilities) as temporary or transient copies stored in iiNet’s switches and servers or in some other way.

43.   It does not follow from the fact that the Court may find that the iiNet users have ‘electronically transmitted’ the films that the Court will necessarily have to find that the data so transmitted constitutes an ‘infringing copy.’ For example, the Court could find as a fact that the users have ‘electronically transmitted’ the whole or substantial part of the films by reference only to the conduct of the users without the Court having to consider the involvement of the technical process by which that transmission occurs. In such instance, the Court’s finding in relation to the conduct of the iiNet users may have no bearing on whether it finds that the data transmitted is, while in transmission, a copy of the film as defined, meaning an article or thing in which the visual images or sounds comprising the film are embodied. The data would need to be a copy for it to constitute an infringing copy, and there would have to be an infringing copy for there to be conversion.

The judge described the movie companies’ claims as novel but, at this stage of the proceedings, refused summary judgment and required them

47.   … to specify exactly what the ‘infringing copies’ are; how they are created; and at least one instance of them, as is required by O 58 r 16 of the Rules

Thirdly, it does appear that the movie companies contend that iiNet directly infringes because any temporary/transient copies of infringing material stored in its network or on its servers as users download or transmit them are infringing reproductions. Unlike the conversion claim, the judge considered this adequately pleaded:

50.   The issues the Court has raised regarding the definition of ‘infringing copy’, and whether that could apply on the facts pleaded, do not arise in relation to this claim. If it is found that there was transient storage of the whole or substantial part of the films, this may give rise to there being a ‘copy’ for the purposes of s 86(c) of the Copyright Act, and consequently the problems discussed above in relation to ‘electronic transmission’ do not apply.

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Limited [2009] FCA 332

Earlier background on the case here and here.

Irish ISP and 3 strikes

IPKat reports that the case in Eire in which the record companies sued the ISP, Eirecom, has settled after 8 days of the scheduled 4 weeks of trial.

Amongst other details, the ISP adopted a 3 strikes policy and the record companies deployed a service to monitor (entrap?) file”sharers”.

Read more here.

Some other background and 3 other strikes here, here, here and here.

IPRIA, ISPs and (Copryight) authorisation

IPRIA is hosting a free seminar on ISPs liability for authorising copyright infringement.

Impressive range of panellists. Possibly the only hotter topic in copyright is what is a reproduction of a substantial part. Score a CPD point!

5 February 2009 at 5.30 for 6.00pm.

Details via here.

The Internet Wars (copyright campaign) come to ISPs down under

The big movie studios have brought proceedings against iiNet, one of the larger (in a non-Bigpond sort of way) ISPs seeking to impose liability on the ISP for infringing downloading by its subscribers.

The Application is here (pdf) and the Statement of Claim is here (pdf).

Various analyses:

Nic Suzor has a detailed view here

Kim Weatherall here

Australian PC Mag here

The Film Industry outlines its position here

IPRoo carries a quote from the Internet Industry Association’s CEO here.

As you can see from this coverage, this has really set the cat among the pigeons.  The striking thing about this action, however, is that one might have characterised iiNet as a general purpose ISP, not existing just to promote infringing downloads like the Court’s found Mr Cooper’s mp3s4free.com or substantially like Kazaa.

Thus, the distinction propounded by the record companies in Cooper (at [123]) and both questioned and side-stepped by Branson J (at [40]) appears to be very squarely off the table. So, as many of the bloggers note, it is not too much of a stretch to claim that the future of the internet is at stake here.  Will the old Copyright Convergence Group‘s analogy to the postal system – imposing liability only on the person who introduces (posts) the material – be confirmed or will we, through the Courts, turn back into a closed, monitored system?

The ISPs can hardly be surprised:

(a) s 101(1A(c) expressly provides for the development of an industry code to establish norms;

(b) the copyright owners have directly attacked the ISPs in Eire;

(c) the UK government has “brokered” some sort of more “pro-active” role on ISPs too.

No doubt, if the matter goes to trial, we can expect to see a volume of evidence about the volume of iiNet’s P2P traffic vis a vis its other activities and, before then, perhaps some applications for discovery of traffic details.

Given that liability appears to be predicated on authorisation, it will also be particularly interesting to see how the movie producers circumvent the prohibition on intercepting communications over a telecommunications system and, perhaps, (if an ISP is a carriage service provider) the prohibition on use or disclosure of information the contents of any communication carried by a carriage service provider.