Testing the DMCA “Safe Harbor”
Nate Anderson. Warner Sues “Playable Search Engine,” Tests DMCA Safe Harbor. ArsTechnica. Jan. 25, 2008. Warner Bros. trots out all the goodies in its 57-page complaint (.pdf) that alleges copyright infringement by search engine SeeqPod. One of the ways in which SeeqPod tries to differentiate itself is by providing links to music or video files that others make available on the Web. (For example, we typed in a search “jay-z” and received about 20 hits, many of which were links to YouTube videos. We were able to watch the YouTube videos within the SeeqPod site instead of having to link out to YouTube to get the content.)
Apparently, SeeqPod compiles search results not only through the work of its own search robot, but also through user-contributed submissions. Warner Bros. has seized on this second aspect to frame SeeqPod as a business that “aims to capitalize on the illegal use of ‘free’ music to grow its user base rapidly and inexpensively,” accusing the search provider of direct infringement, contributory infringement, vicarious infringement. WB also throws in MGM v. Grokster‘s inducement liability theory (just for kicks and giggles).
One of the interesting things about this case is SeeqPod’s technology was born in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; the Lab also has a 5% stake in the spin-off company. So, in essence, Warner Bros. also is suing the federal government. Another interesting tidbit: Anderson notes that Last.fm has a similar search capability, but also has licensing deals in place with the major music labels, while SeeqPod has no licensing deals and seems to rest its business model on the DMCA ISP safe harbor at Section 512(c). We hate to see a promising technology like this get ensnared in litigation so early in its life, but in the unlikely event this goes to trial, this could be an interesting case.
(Editor’s Note: Copycense editors originally commented on this article in the Jan. 29, 2008, edition of Copycense Clippings.)
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