Before the Internet made file sharing ubiquitous, liability for “indirect” copyright infringement was something of a legal backwater.* Massive file sharing of audio, image and video files has changed that. Where a website actually hosts a copyrighted file uploaded by a user, the legal rights of the parties are relatively clear: the uploader (and subsequent downloaders) are liable for “direct” infringement. The legal rights of the website owner are governed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).**
*A notable exception being the Supreme Court’s pre-Internet decision in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., which rejected a claim of contributory infringement directed at the VCR, since Sony did not encourage copyright infringement, and the VCR was capable of commercially significant noninfringing uses.
**Caveat: the courts are still working at interpreting and applying the DMCA. The most recent appellate decisions are Viacom v. Youtube (2nd. Cir. 2012) and UMG v.
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Oriental Financial Group, Inc. v. Cooperativa De Ahorro y Crédito Oriental (1st Cir. October 18, 2012) — In this case the First Circuit adopts the trademark law “progressive encroachment doctrine,” joining the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th circuits. The progressive encroachment doctrine may be used as an offensive countermeasure to the affirmative defense of laches (delay in brining suit) where the trademark owner can show that “(1) during the period of the delay the plaintiff could reasonably conclude that it should not bring suit to challenge the allegedly infringing activity; (2) the defendant materially altered its infringing activities; and (3) suit was not unreasonably delayed after the alteration in infringing activity” (quoting Oriental Financial).
Harlan Laboratories, Inc. v. Gerald Campbell (D. Mass. October 25, 2012) — Applying Indiana law, Judge Patti Saris issues a preliminary injunction enforcing a one year non-compete agreement. However, the opinion makes liberal use of Massachusetts and First Circuit precedents.… Read the full article