By: Stephen J. Wang
By the time the U.S. Supreme Court decided Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster Ltd. in 2005, Internet users around the globe who engaged in copyright infringement had already turned to newer, alternative forms of peer-to-peer filesharing. One recent development is the “seedbox,” a virtual private server rentable for use to download and upload (“seed”) files through the BitTorrent protocol. Because BitTorrent is widely used for both non-infringing and infringing purposes, the operators of seedboxes and other rentable BitTorrent-capable virtual private servers face the possibility of direct and secondary liability as did the defendants in Grokster and more recent cases like UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners LLC and Viacom Intern., Inc. v. YouTube, Inc. This Issue Brief examines whether the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) may shield virtual private server providers with customers running BitTorrent clients from potential liability for copyright infringement. It argues that general virtual private server providers are likely to find refuge in the safe harbor provisions as long as they conscientiously comply with the DMCA. In contrast, virtual private server providers specifically targeting BitTorrent users (“seedbox providers”) are much less likely to receive DMCA safe harbor protection.
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Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 163
By: Ali V. Mirsaidi
Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload Limited, has been in many news headlines over the past year. Megaupload—one of Dotcom’s many peer-to-peer sharing sites—was the center of controversy, as it allowed users to upload and share all sorts of files, including copyrighted material. After an organized effort by the Department of Justice and several foreign governments, Dotcom was arrested for (secondary) copyright infringement and his site was ultimately shut down.
Dotcom has recently launched a new service, MEGA, which he claims will evade copyright laws entirely. Like other well-known cloud-sharing services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, MEGA allows users to upload files and to share them with select users. In an attempt to avoid liability, MEGA locally encrypts all files on the user’s computer before they are uploaded to the site. The private key and public key used to encrypt and decrypt the file are retained solely by the user; MEGA gets no part of that information. This, Dotcom argues, will shift the entirety of the copyright onus to the user.
This Issue Brief analyzes the protections afforded cyberlocker services like MEGA by the DMCA, including tensions raised in actual litigation. This Issue Brief argues that, while an ex ante secondary-liability analysis is difficult due to its contextual nature, MEGA’s use of user-controlled encryption (UCE), deduplication, and distributed host servers may lend to an affirmative finding of liability.
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Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 151
By: Michael Wolfe
Publishers have spent the last decade and a half struggling against falling prices for digital goods. The recent antitrust case against Apple and the major publishers highlights collusive price fixing as a potential method for resisting depreciation.
This Article examines the myriad ways in which digital distribution puts downward pressure on prices, and seeks to determine whether or not collusive price fixing would serve as an appropriate response to such pressure given the goals of the copyright grant. Considering retailer bargaining power, increased access to substitutes, the loss of traditional price discrimination methods, the effects of vertical integration in digital publishing, and the increasing competitiveness of the public domain, I conclude that the resultant downward price pressure might in fact significantly hamper the commodity distribution of digital goods.
I remain unconvinced, however, that price fixing is an appropriate solution. The copyright grant affords rights holders commercial opportunities beyond simple commodity distribution. These other methods for commercializing e-goods suggest to me that current pricing trends are not indicative of market failure, but rather of a changing marketplace.
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Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 129
By: Matthew D. Bunker and Clay Calvert
Examining recent judicial opinions, this Article analyzes and critiques the transformative-use doctrine two decades after the U.S. Supreme Court introduced it into copyright law in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music. When the Court established the transformative-use concept, which plays a critical role in fair-use determinations today, its contours were relatively undefined. Drawing on an influential law-review article, the Court described a transformative use as one that adds “new expression, meaning or message.” Unfortunately, the doctrine and its application are increasingly ambiguous, with lower courts developing competing conceptions of transformation. This doctrinal murkiness is particularly disturbing because fair use is a key proxy for First Amendment interests in copyright law. This Article traces the evolution of transformative use, analyzes three key paradigms of transformative use that have gained prominence in the post-Campbell environment, and offers suggestions for a jurisprudence in which transformative use is a less significant component of the fair-use analysis.
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Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 92
By: Hon. Amy J. St. Eve, Hon. Charles P. Burns, & Michael A. Zuckerman
This Article presents the results of a survey of jurors in federal and state court on their use of social media during their jury service. We began surveying federal jurors in 2011 and reported preliminary results in 2012; since then, we have surveyed several hundred more jurors, including state jurors, for a more complete picture of juror attitudes toward social media. Our results support the growing consensus that jury instructions are the most effective tool to mitigate the risk of juror misconduct through social media. We conclude with a set of recommended best practices for using a social-media instruction.
Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 64
By: Brandee N. Woolard
Balancing a duty to a tribunal and a duty to a client can paralyze a lawyer. The task raises difficult questions about how to reconcile competing obligations as an advocate and as an officer of the court. Individuals licensed to prosecute patent applications must decide how to honor both their obligations to the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and their obligation to successfully prosecute patent applications. This burden can result in willful blindness, where the patent attorney or patent agent (“patent practitioner”) limits inquiry into information that may bar a patent application. The recent Federal Circuit opinion in Therasense may have eliminated the judicial “duty to inquire” doctrine that kept these obligations in balance. This Issue Brief argues that there is a need to protect against willful blindness and proposes a resurrection of the eliminated doctrines.
Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 41
By: B. Thomas Watson
“Virtual” molecular compounds, created in molecular modeling software, are increasingly useful in the process of rational drug design. When a physical compound is patented, however, virtual use of the compound allows researchers to circumvent the protection granted to the patentee. To acquire protection from unauthorized use of compounds in their virtual form, patentees must directly claim the virtual compound. But Supreme Court decisions such as Bilski v. Kappos and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. call into question whether virtual compound claims are patentable subject matter under § 101. Using the guidance offered by the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit, this Issue Brief argues that virtual compound claims are not abstract ideas and therefore, consistent with patent policy, qualify as patentable subject matter.
Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 25
By: Jennifer Jenkins
On the first day of each year, Public Domain Day celebrates the moment when copyrights expire, and books, films, songs, and other creative works enter the public domain, where they become, in Justice Brandeis’s words, “free as the air to common use.” Educators, students, artists, and fans can use them with neither permission nor payment. Online archives can digitize and make them fully available without the threat of lawsuits or licensing demands. Sadly, in the United States, as a result of copyright term extensions, not a single published work will enter the public domain in 2014. In fact, almost no works created during most readers’ lifetimes will become completely free for them to redistribute and reuse, unless the rights holders affirmatively decide otherwise.
In this Article, I will briefly trace the history and consequences of this legally imposed impoverishment of the public domain. But, I argue, this is only part of the story. Increasingly, private initiatives are trying to build zones of legal freedom that simulate some attributes of the public domain. At the same time, there are global copyright reform efforts to limit the negative effects of term extension, at least with regard to “orphan works”—those that have no identifiable or locatable copyright holder. Although these efforts are no substitute for a more complete reform of copyright, collectively, they do transform the legal situation substantially. Thus, while Public Domain Day in the United States may seem like an empty celebration, it is also a reminder of this newfound complexity in our copyright landscape.
Cite: 12 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 1
By: Douglas L. Rogers
On April 15, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. on the question, “Are human genes patentable?” This article argues that human genes are not patentable and that isolating a gene from its surroundings in a human body—or creating synthetically what exists in nature as DNA—does not cause the DNA to become patentable subject matter. The isolated DNA segments of claim 1 have the identical nucleotide sequence and the same function as native DNA, and the isolated DNA of claim 1 do not reflect the marked changes required under Chakrabarty, or the inventive step required under Prometheus, to change an unpatentable product of nature into patentable subject matter. Claim 2 describes those nucleotides in the DNA sequence that code for the polypeptide identified in the Myriad Genetics patent specification and simply reflects the genetic code, an unpatentable law of nature. Since no inventive step has been added to the law of nature, claim 2 constitutes unpatentable subject matter under Prometheus. The Federal Circuit’s contrary decision in Myriad Genetics disregards 150 years of Supreme Court cases that physical phenomena found in nature and laws of nature are not patentable subject matter and threatens to enclose building blocks of nature under federal patent law. The Supreme Court should reverse the Federal Circuit’s decision in Myriad Genetics on claims 1 and 2.
Cite: 11 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 434