Digital Legal

C-Net fails to have Alki David’s infringement lawsuit dismissed

By | Published on Monday 16 July 2012

C-Net

Efforts by CBS-owned C-Net to have a copyright infringement lawsuit against it kicked out of court at the starting gate have failed, after an argument that the website was protected by First Amendment free speech rights was rejected by a judge.

As previously reported, film producer Alki David, founder of FilmOn.com, began legal proceedings against C-Net just over a year ago, claiming that the tech website should be held liable for the copyright infringement enabled by file-sharing technologies like LimeWire, because it’s sister website Download.com provided access to such software for millions of users.

Not only that, David’s lawsuit claimed, but C-Net articles discussed the merits of different file-sharing systems and explained how they could be used, inducing its readers to infringe. But C-Net argued that it was exercising its freedom of speech, under the First Amendment, when writing and expressing opinions about file-sharing technologies, and that the exercising of that right could not be used to hold the company liable for inducement of copyright infringement.

However, last week Judge Dale Fischer did not concur. She conceded that writing about how to file-share in itself could not be deemed inducement, but said that when a website also distributes the technology being reviewed, then the First Amendment right does not necessarily apply. In Fischer’s words: “It would not be difficult to avoid liability by either (1) only providing editorial content without distributing the software or (2) distributing the software without demonstrating or advocating its use for violating copyrights”.

All of which means David’s lawsuit can now continue to court (albeit minus further claims against C-Net of vicarious copyright infringement and material contribution to copyright infringement, which were dismissed by the judge). The FilmOn chief was jubilant at the news, telling reporters: “This is a huge win for us. This sets the precedent for other artists and copyright owners whose work has been illegally distributed by LimeWire, BitTorrent, FrostWire and the billions of copies of P2P software which CBS continues to induce people to download and steal”.

As previously reported, CBS – a major copyright owner itself, of course – has previously accused David of pursuing his lawsuit against C-Net out of spite, after losing a copyright case launched by the media giant against the film producer in 2010. Though it’s probable that there are executives elsewhere within CBS itself who are less than happy about C-Net helping web users find file-sharing technologies, whatever the legalities. And, ironically, at the time LimeWire was on the rise, aided by C-Net distribution, the tech site’s CEO was also on the board of Warner Music.

Alki David is also the maverick American entertainment industry billionaire who last month offered Chris Brown and Drake $10 million between them if they signed up for a celebrity boxing match. David’s offer followed the violent alteration between the entourages of the two music stars at a New York nightclub that left various bystanders injured, and has already resulted in a number of lawsuits.



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