RealTime IT News

High Court Refuses Digital Copyright Appeal

Michael Jay Rossi's legal challenge to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) ended Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, rejected his appeal of the 2001 "wrongful shutdown" of his Internetmovies.com site by Hollywood.

That year, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) issued a cease and desist order to the site's Internet service provider (ISP). Based on information obtained through the MPAA's detection software, Hollywood claimed the site was offering an illegal download of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

The ISP complied with the MPAA order and shut down the site. Apparently, neither the MPAA nor the ISP realized the order was issued nine months before the movie was even completed.

Nor, as it turns out, was Internetmovies.com offering movie downloads. The site bills itself as a directory of download sites and an online movie magazine. Rossi found another ISP and sued the MPAA for damages.

A district court and a federal appeals panel rejected Rossi's lawsuit, ruling that the MPAA was acting within the "good faith" provisions of the DMCA, which requires parties to have a good faith belief that infringing activities are occurring before a takedown notice can be issued to an ISP.

The courts ruled the good faith provision of the DMCA was subjective in nature and the MPAA had cause based on the site's advertising: "Join to download full length movies online now!/New movies every month."

In April, Rossi filed his appeal with the Supreme Court.

"All I was doing was reporting news about movies online. This now proves there are no freedom of speech or due process rights on the Internet for the common person," Rossi said in a statement issued late Monday.

Rossi pointed out that the MPAA did not dispute it had made an error in judging the site's content and lamented the courts decision in favor of the subjective interpretation of the DMCA.

"Believing material from the future is downloadable is now a valid and reasonable belief that protects copyright holders to continue to abuse the 'shoot now, ask later' good faith belief in the DMCA," Rossi said. "A Pandora's box of troubles for Web site owners and individuals is open.

"I can only hope that copyright holders do not abuse this DMCA super power, but as you can see they already do," Rossi added. "Look for the book downloadable soon: 'In Hollywood we trust, no liberty or justice for all.'"

Monday's decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case is the second time the justices have passed on the controversial DMCA. Two years ago, the Recording Industry Association of America began issuing subpoenas issued by a court clerk who only checked to make sure the subpoena forms were properly filled out.

Normal subpoenas require a judge's signature and notice to the alleged infringer. A lower court ruling supported the RIAA's claim that a provision in the 1998 DMCA allowed copyright owners to issue the subpoenas without proper judicial review.

On the basis of that ruling, the RIAA issued more than 3,000 subpoena requests to ISPs and filed almost 400 copyright infringement actions. Both Verizon and cable Internet provider Charter Communications appealed the decision.

Verizon won its case against the DMCA subpoena process in December of 2003. In October of last year, the Supreme Court rejected without comment the RIAA's appeal.