RIAA Loses “Making Available” Argument in Default Judgment Request

On February 13, 2008, in Connecticut copyright case Atlantic vs. Brennan, the court rejected the RIAA’s request for a default judgment on the grounds of its theory that simply making available copyrighted music that might be illegally copied by some other party is, in fact, infringement.

District Judge Janet Bond Arterton ruled that such a request is insufficient:

“without actual distribution of copies…. there is no violation [of] the distribution right.”

[ … ]

“distribution requires an ‘actual dissemination’ of a copy.”

Additionally, other factors in previous cases suggest proceeding with caution, and a default judgment would be unwise given the viability of a host of meritorious defenses. Such cases highlighted were:

1. Whether the amount of statutory damages available under the Copyright Act, measured against the actual money damages suffered, is unconstitutionally excessive (see UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Lindor).

2. Whether the Plaintiffs and their recording industry peers, by bringing infringement suits like this one, have engaged in anticompetitive behavior constituting copyright misuse (see Lava Records LLC v. Amurao).

The text of the judgment is available here.

This judgment is significant as it removes one of the ham-fisted approaches used by the RIAA and others to sidestep the actual merits of the case. As mentioned on the blog Recording Industry vs. The People:

“The concern of this Court is that in these lawsuits, potentially meritorious legal and factual defenses are not being litigated, and instead, the federal judiciary is being used as a hammer by a small group of plaintiffs to pound settlements out of unrepresented defendants.”

-Hon. S. James Otero
District Judge
Central District of California
March 2, 2007
Elektra v. O’Brien

This is good news for due process and anyone who dislikes prejudicial posturing.

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