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Internet entrepeneur sues CNET for distributing P2P software

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 16 Nov 2011 15:14 User comments (7)

Internet entrepeneur sues CNET for distributing P2P software As the entertainment industry pushes for legislation to punish sites for profiting from others' copyright infringement, they may be getting a first hand look from the other side.
A coalition led by producer, director, and digital distribution entrepeneur Alki David is suing CBS Interactive and CNET. CBS has owned CNET since 2008.

The plaintiffs claim CNET's operation of download sites offering P2P software makes them liable for secondary copyright infringement as defined by the Supreme Court in the Grokster case.

At first glance, it's hard to tell if this is an honest attempt to take advantage of the current law enforcement and judicial environment which has set the bar for assigning liability for copyright infringement ridiculously low. It could, instead be a brilliantly planned satirical attack on bills like PROTECT IP and SOPA, and even the ACTA intellectual property treaty.

Given David's dual roles in both Internet innovation and film production and distribution, it really could be either one. However, considering the co-plaintiffs, which include Sugar Hill Music and the estate of William Tennyson, their intentions are probably serious.

The lawsuit alleges:

Defendants' essential role in the massive infringement of the Plaintiffs' works renders Defendants liable for that infringement on any of the three doctrines of indirect or secondary liability as articulated and developed in recent precedents concerning P2P technology. Defendants at all times had the ability to control the actions of the direct infringers by refusing to distribute and otherwise promote the software platforms Defendants knew were the engines of the infringers' massive infringement. Defendants at all times also could have ceased their efforts to instruct users as to the means of copyright infringement through this new software, but, in naked pursuit of the dramatic profits they made from that distribution, Defendants chose not to do so. Defendants are also subject to contributary liability, because they had ongoing and specific knolwdge of the massive infringement carried out through the P2P software and materially contributed to that infringement by distributing and promoting the software, providing instruction as to its use and relative efficacy for purposes of infringement and ensuring the direct infringers had access to the most recent and least detectable infringing technologies. In addition, Defendants induced direct infringement by clearly and purposefully targeting and catering their services to the P2P infringement community. In fact, on information and believe, Defendants specifically encouraged CNET editors to promote and encourage P2P software and, in general, the culture of copyright infringement that evolved in the P2P community.


If there's one key piece of evidence included in the complaint which ties CNET's actions directly to the Grokster decision, it would seem to be the fact CNET provided videos demonstrating the use of various P2P clients for finding obviously infringing content.

To put this into context, in the Grokster ruling, the Supreme Court found a company could be liable for secondary infringement if they promote their product as being useful for copyright infringement.

Combine that with the government's stated opinion that advertising revenue from websites with even user-posted links to infringing material constitutes contributory infringement, and it seems like a pretty strong case.

Not by coincidence, it also reads like an indictment of the changes to copyright policy made in recent years. The complaint is long, but also a thoroughly educational read.

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7 user comments

116.11.2011 18:15

WHAT THE FUCK!? This Nonsense is getting outta control

216.11.2011 19:04

agreed


"Cable thief is a victimless crime."

316.11.2011 23:33

That's great...once PROTECT IP goes through, this guy is going to have a lot of lawsuits going...



418.11.2011 10:08

I'd be really surprised that CNet has put out videos showing P2P being used to get illegal content. They've certainly talked about P2P being used to get legal content such as Linux distros, but they're always VERY careful about not showing how it could be used to get illegal content.

There's no new legal issue here. This has been talked about on CNet podcasts such as BOL when the Grokster case was being decided. It's just legal spam.

518.11.2011 12:05

Did I mention this thing about Rome burning a couple of forums back? You can't keep people from sharing information. Although the information being shared will always be disputed as to whether it 'should' be shared, free will can't be turned off.

I smell dissension coming again and it ain't going to be pretty.


620.11.2011 3:52

P2P distribution is one of the reasons why Linux can be had for free.

There is one major redeeming value in file transfer by Torrent. For instance if I wish to send my wedding video file to my brother living overseas I can do it by running private torrent host available to him alone. This is the ONLY sure shot way of getting an absolutely uncorrupted file.

What the recipient gets is EXACTLY what the torrent creator included in the torrent.

713.1.2012 13:58

you people are dumb and you need to look whole picture of pipa/sopa will take away everything you hold dear to you. such as youtube, facebook, yahoo, etc... what will you guys do when the bill passes? you can't start a small business because pipa/sopa won't allow it and your freedom of speech is gone to so enjoy your final days on free internet while still can.

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