Copyright Infringement Cases: 2 Examples

Despite the fact that most people believe that content theft is a growing problem in the worlds of business and entertainment, most cases of copyright infringement are actually resolved through voluntary actions.

When it comes to copyright infringement, the law is not black and white. It’s a complex issue that can get very confusing for consumers. There are many different options when dealing with a copyright infringement claim and it’s important to know what your rights are, especially to learn them from a Copyright Lawyer Houston. Here are several examples of major copyright infringement cases that have been pursued in the federal courts, and the extent of success each party has achieved in a particular case.

Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc. (2007)

There is a fine line between “copyright infringement” and “fair use.” The Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act (section 107) indicates that a copyrighted work can be legally reproduced, performed, or broadcast by a third party without authorization under certain circumstances, such as for educational or informational purposes.

Perfect 10 is an adult website specializing in “natural,” unaltered pictures of women. The owner aggressively pursued copyright protection of its imagery, having filed more than 20 lawsuits for infringement, out of fear of a loss of revenue. 

One high-profile case involved Perfect 10 alleging Google of copyright infringement for displaying & indexing its subscription-only content on Google image search – as a byproduct of other infringing companies displaying this content.

Google’s image search algorithm automatically indexes and displays pictures from other websites in its search engine results. Google does this with a fair use intent: the images are simply links to the websites that host them. This provides searchers a further means to access & discover websites of interest. Nowadays, Google image search displays a notice that images displayed may be subject to copyright – meaning that if a searcher were to download and use the image themselves, respecting copyrights would then be the searcher’s responsibility.

The verdict of the case was ultimately that Google was not infringing on Perfect 10’s copyright, pointing out similar cases proving that the fair use of copyrighted material for information retrieval is a benefit to the general public. Any infringement would’ve been on the websites indexed by Google, not on Google themselves.

You can save many years and tons of money by consulting a lawyer first to determine whether a third party is infringing on your rights, or simply partaking in fair use. In certain cases, fair use can actually be of benefit to the copyright owner by encouraging & driving sales.

A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.

By the start of the 2000’s, the internet was relatively in its infancy, and yet affordable enough for music to be easily streamed, shared & downloaded online at an accessible bitrate. Napster was a peer-to-peer MP3 sharing network that allowed users to upload music for others to hear for free. The efficiency of doing so even resulted in the “leakage” of then-unreleased songs by major recording artists, such as Metallica.

Within less than a year after its 1999 release, Napster exploded as the pre-eminent way for internet users to listen to bootlegged music. Before long, the perceived threat to music sales was large enough that numerous major record companies took legal action against Napster for copyright infringement. By 2002, after the case was closed, Napster had ceased to exist, though this lawsuit certainly did not deter free online music-sharing.

Today, an abundance of music can be viewed & shared on YouTube, largely as a result of licensing agreements between YouTube and record companies – where YouTube pays a portion of ad revenue to the record companies for streaming videos of music they hold copyright to, even when the uploader was not authorized to do so. Whether music on YouTube constitutes infringement or not is debatable, as some argue that it is “fair use” and actually encourages music sales.

If you want to protect your copyrighted material, or are being sued for infringement, we highly recommend consulting with and retaining a Lloyd & Mousilli copyright lawyer.

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