Court Dismisses Copyright Inducement Claims and Communications Act Claims against Justin.tv Inc. and YouTube, Inc.

by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Contact

Recently, Chief Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. and Magistrate Judge David Keesler of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina issued one of the first opinions nationwide dismissing a claim for inducement of copyright infringement at the pleadings stage.

In Ark Promotions, Inc. v. Justin.tv Inc., et al., the court faced the increasingly common scenario of copyright infringement claims being brought against a website operator due to content uploaded to that website by a third party. Boxing promoter Ark Promotions asserted claims for inducement of copyright infringement against YouTube, Inc., and Justin.tv Inc., which operates a website that allows users to stream live video footage of lectures, performances, and other events. Ark Promotions claimed that third-party users had uploaded television footage of an Ark Promotions boxing event onto YouTube and streamed live television footage of the event onto the Justin.tv website, and that YouTube and Justin.tv had induced that infringement by creating their respective websites and, in Justin.tv's case, providing general instructions to users on how to upload videos.

Ark Promotions claimed that its theory was supported by the decision in MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., in which the U.S. Supreme Court described "inducement" liability as a form of secondary copyright infringement. The Grokster Court held that "one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties." In so holding, the Supreme Court emphasized that inducement liability requires that the defendant had the specific objective of promoting or encouraging others to violate copyright and that "active steps were taken with the purpose of bringing about infringing acts."

Justin.tv and YouTube explained that under Grokster, an inducement claim must be supported by specific factual allegations to survive a motion to dismiss, not boilerplate assertions that the defendant "unlawfully induced the infringement." They argued further that allegations that a website operator induced infringement merely by providing content-neutral instructions on how to upload or stream video content do not satisfy the Supreme Court's requirement of showing that a defendant took "active steps [. . .] with the purpose of bringing about infringing acts."

Magistrate Judge Keesler and Judge Conrad (who adopted the Magistrate's recommendation) agreed, holding that "Plaintiff's one sentence allegation that 'Justin.tv provides detailed instructions on its website directing users how to stream live video over the Internet through the www.justin.tv website'" did not "adequately support a facially plausible claim that [it] is liable for inducement of copyright infringement." The court agreed with Justin.tv's position that "Plaintiff's allegation does no more than suggest that Justin.tv is providing instructions for use of its product for lawful purposes."

The court also dismissed claims brought by Ark Promotions against Justin.tv and YouTube under the Communications Act based on the same conduct. Following a recent decision in the similar case of Zuffa LLC v. Justin.tv Inc. (D. Nev.), the court held that uploading a copy of cable television footage over the Internet does not violate the Communications Act because the act regulates only "the interception of cable signals during their process of being transmitted or distributed," not "the operation of a website onto which third-party users may upload video clips that have already been transmitted or broadcasted."

The Ark Promotions decision provides guidance as to the types of allegations that a copyright plaintiff must plead to establish an inducement claim, and is one of the first instances in which a court has dismissed an inducement claim at the pleadings stage. The guidance it provides should help ease litigation burdens on online services that provide platforms allowing users to share content, provided that they do not take affirmative steps for the specific purpose of encouraging copyright infringement. The decision also adds to the growing body of legal authority holding that the Communications Act does not regulate the streaming of cable television footage on the Internet.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati represents both Justin.tv and YouTube in connection with the case, and continues to play a leading role in helping clients assess the application of copyright law to online services. For more information, please contact David H. Kramer, Maura L. Rees, Michael H. Rubin, or another member of the firm's intellectual property litigation practice.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Contact
more
less

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.