Justices decline case contesting net providers’ ‘safe harbor’ protections for pre-’72 music recordings, infringement claims
Where the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court decline to go can matter as much as where they do.
The lesson has played out anew with the high court’s recent refusal to take up a much-watched Entertainment Law dispute involving pre-1972 sound recordings and online service providers.
That has left the services, the music industry, and judges in courts across the country with some complex copyright issues hanging more than a little bit. For now, performers may have been dealt a setback, while the providers look like they won a victory rooted in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbors.”
This controlling case may have executives at the online video service Vimeo sighing in some relief after they were sued in 2009 by Capitol Records for copyright infringement.
A federal district judge hearing the case ruled the video site liable for infringement where pre-1972 recordings had been uploaded without license to Vimeo’s site.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned that judgment, finding the lower court’s exempting older recordings from the DMCA’s safe harbors would “defeat the very purpose Congress sought to achieve in passing [it].” The appeals court refused to reconsider the case in August, leading the record industry to appeal in December to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the high court declined to hear the case, leaving the Second Circuit judgement in place, especially since it was joined by another appellate circuit.
What’s this dispute about and why does it matter?