In case you missed it, a jury this week found that Michael Robertson, CEO of defunct music service MP3Tunes, was liable for copyright infringement. The jury concluded that Robertson, whose websites permitted users to upload songs and store them in “lockers,” had turned a blind eye to piracy — meaning that they forfeited the so-called “safe harbor” protections under copyright law that normally ensure that a website is not liable for the misdeeds of its users.
The significance of the case has little to do with MP3Tunes, which has long been closed, but instead stands as a strategic victory for copyright owners. That’s because the jury found Robertson liable on the basis of so-called “red flag” knowledge rather than “actual” knowledge. The distinction may sound arcane, but it’s one the studios have fought hard to establish as part of their strategy to change the level of proof needed to prove piracy.
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