New York Business Lawyers

Social Media for Lawyers Live From New York—it’s Social Media Sunday–Non-Infringing Use Doctrine Edition

by / Sunday, 27 June 2010 / Published in Technology & eCommerce

Social Media for LawyersFacebook apparently relies heavily on BitTorrent to update software on its thousands of servers in an efficient fashion.  This little tidbit should serve as a reminder that the non-infringing use doctrine is alive and viable.  For those of you unfamiliar with the doctrine, it was first coined in the seminal Sony VTR case (Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.), whereby the TV industry tries to torpedo Sony’s nascent betamax video recorder technology by claiming it enabled home TV viewers to infringe copyright TV broadcasts.  Unphased, the Sony team argued that the court could not bar the technology on the grounds of infringement, if there was at least one legitimate non-infringing use available to the end user of the product.  In that case, the court determining that “time shifting” (i.e., recording a program at one time to be viewed at another time, presumably because one could not see the program at its original airtime) was a legitimate, non-infringing use.

I often encounter those who believe that this doctrine is too lenient, and really “takes the easy way out” when it comes to technologies that appear solely designed to lift copyright material.  While BitTorrent is most notable for the shenanigans of The Pirate Bay and its ilk, it does have legitimate uses that will likely expand as time goes on.

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