Newsgroups Float Into Safe Harbor, and Copyright Holders Are Sunk

By: Alicia L. Wright

Usenet newsgroups are swiftly becoming a popular vehicle for pirating digital music, movies, books, and other copyrighted works. Meanwhile, courts ignore Usenet’s tremendous potential for copyright infringement. In Ellison v. Robertson, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that America Online’s Usenet service might qualify for safe harbor under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. According to the district court below, safe harbor would preclude a finding of secondary copyright infringement against America Online. However, the courts misinterpreted the safe harbor provisions. One safe harbor provision was misapplied and another was ignored altogether. This iBrief critiques the Ellison opinions and analyzes the application of the safe harbor provisions to Usenet operators.

Cite: 2006 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0019

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