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Scribd sued for copyright infringement

Scribd sued for copyright infringement

The popular document sharing site Scribd is under attack by the law firm that defended filesharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset.

Social publishing site Scribd has found itself under legal attack with a law firm accusing the site of facilitating massive copyright infringement - but there's a twist.

As reported over on CNet, the site - which allows users to upload written documentation either for free or for sale - is accused by law firm Camara & Sibley of building a technology "that's broken barriers to copyright infringement on a global scale and in the process [has] also built one of the largest readerships in the world," which allows the company to allegedly "shamelessly [profit] from the stolen copyrighted works of innumerable authors."

While on the surface the suit would appear to be identical to those carried out on so many other sites previously, it's the identity of the law firm which offers the interesting twist: Camara & Sibley is the firm responsible for defending accused file sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset after she found herself being sued by the US music industry for millions of dollars in damages.

While the move might seem contrary on the surface, it's not uncommon for lawyers to argue both sides of this sort of issue: back in July Joe Sibley told CNet's Greg Sandoval that he and Kiwi Camara could easily see themselves doing just this if they believed in the issue brought forward by the industry. Clearly, author's rights are just such an issue.

The catalyst for the suit appears to have been author Elaine Scott, who found a copy of her book Stocks and Bonds: Profits and Losses, a Quick Look at Financial Markets uploaded to the site without her permission and downloaded by more than 100 individual users. However, the firm is looking for class action status in order to represent "every author who owns a valid registered copyright in a work infringed by Scribd," a site the firm describes as "YouTube for documents."

Neither Scribd nor Camara & Sibley has commented on the suit thus far, but it would appear that a filtering system developed by the company to prevent materials flagged as infringing copyright from being re-uploaded once removed isn't enough with the law firm stating that "apparently [Scribd and other West Coast start-ups] believe any business may misappropriate and then publish intellectual proprety, as long as it ceases to use a stolen work when an author complains."

Do you believe that authors have a legitimate case against Scribd and other similar document sharing sites, or is the filtering system and complaint mechanism in place at the site enough to defend the company? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

4 Comments

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1ad7 21st September 2009, 17:09 Quote
I think this is a BAD idea. This could set a precedent for websites being completely legaly responsible for their users actions on the site. Not only for copyright infringement but maybe there words or planning illegal activities via PM on a forum etc...
quack 21st September 2009, 17:25 Quote
Scribd is protected by the safe harbor provisions in the DMCA. The people uploading copyrighted documents are the ones who are liable not the site itself.

*sigh*
Flibblebot 22nd September 2009, 10:18 Quote
True. Surely any lawsuit against them would have to show that they developed the site with the express purpose of sharing copyrighted materials? Rather than, as is more likely the case, developing the site to allow users to share non-copyrighted materials and the website being subverted.

Frivolous lawsuit, IMHO.
mclean007 22nd September 2009, 16:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by quack
Scribd is protected by the safe harbor provisions in the DMCA. The people uploading copyrighted documents are the ones who are liable not the site itself.
That's a fairly sweeping statement. It is true that s512(c) DCMA protects service providers against liability for damages for copyright infringement arising "by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider", but this safe harbour is conditional. First, the service provider must not have actual knowledge that the material or an activity using the material on the system or network is infringing; second, in the absence of such actual knowledge, the service provider must not be aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent; thirdly, upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness or notification of infringement, the service provider has to act expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material, in order to avoid liability.

Even then, if the service provider receives "a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity", he's liable.

I don't use Scribd, so am not sure exactly how it works, but presumably it takes a cut from paid works, and uses ad revenue elsewhere? I'm confident there is at least a reasonable case against them.
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