UCLA Copyright Lawsuit Over Streaming of Videos Dismissed–Again

A federal judge in California has for the second time thrown out a lawsuit that accused UCLA of violating copyright law by streaming videos online for student use.

Judge Consuelo B. Marshall of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles had previously dismissed the lawsuit in October 2011, but she allowed the plaintiffs, Ambrose Video Publishing Inc. and the Association for Information Media and Equipment, a trade group, to file a second amended complaint. In a ruling issued last Tuesday, she rejected the second amended complaint.

The plaintiffs contended that UCLA had acted illegally in copying DVD’s of Shakespeare plays acquired from Ambrose and streaming them online for faculty and students to use in courses. UCLA argued that streaming the videos was permissible under the fair-use principle, which can allow reproductions for teaching, and the Teach Act, which allows limited use of copyrighted materials for online education.

In her ruling, Judge Marshall said the plaintiffs had failed to provide adequate support for their infringement claim. The ruling hinges largely on findings that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that the defendants had sovereign or qualified immunity. But in a section of the ruling, Judge Marshall also considered four factors relating to the fair-use arguments.

One of those factors weighed in favor of not finding fair use, she wrote, “because the entire works were streamed, not just portions.” But, on balance, she wrote, “the court concludes that there is, at a minimum, ambiguity as to whether defendants’ streaming constitutes fair use.” She added: “Notably, no court has considered whether streaming videos only to students enrolled in a class constitutes fair use, which reinforces the ambiguity of the law in this area.”

A lawyer for the defendants, who include the UC Regents, said the ruling was “a complete victory.” The lawyer, R. James Slaughter of Keker & Van Nest LLP, told the news service Law360 that the ruling “confirms what UCLA has long believed: that streaming previously purchased video content over its intranet for educational purposes is not a copyright violation or a violation of any contract.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs were not immediately available for comment.

–Adapted from an article by Charles Huckabee in the November 26, 2012 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

Streaming Video Case Against UCLA Dismissed

A judge dismissed a lawsuit on Monday that had accused the University of California, Los Angeles of copyright infringement for streaming videos online. The lawsuit against UCLA was filed by the Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME) and Ambrose Video Publishing Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Those plaintiffs claimed that UCLA had violated copyright and breached its contract by copying DVD’s of Shakespeare plays acquired from Ambrose and streaming them online for faculty and students to use in courses.

U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo B. Marshall found multiple problems with these arguments. Among the most important: He didn’t buy the plaintiffs’ claim that UCLA had waived its constitutional “sovereign immunity,” a principle that shields states—and state universities—from being sued without their consent in federal court. The judge also held that the association, which doesn’t own the copyrights at issue in the dispute, failed to establish its standing to bring the case.

The decision means “universities will have a little more breathing room for using media,” says James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at New York Law School. But the more important implication is that the case will be a precedent that universities can cite in future copyright disputes, Mr. Grimmelmann says. The UCLA decision will make the Authors Guild case against HathiTrust more of a long shot, he speculates. That battle, which concerns a collection of digital books that Google scanned from university libraries, also involves an association suing on behalf of copyright owners, and the target of the lawsuit is a digital repository hosted by a state institution, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In addition to Michigan, defendants in the HathiTrust case include Cornell University, Indiana University, the University of California, and the University of Wisconsin. “That suit has almost exactly the same sovereign-immunity and standing problems as this one,” Mr. Grimmelmann says. “If the HathiTrust suit were to be decided tomorrow by the same court, it would be dismissed.”

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) hailed the UCLA victory as an especially welcome bit of good news, given all the copyright struggles dogging universities. But ARL pointed out in a blog post that the decision ”stops short of vindicating the strongest fair-use arguments in favor of streaming.” Kevin Smith, Duke University’s scholarly-communications officer, also noted in his own post that, because much of the dismissal hung on the sovereign-immunity question, “a major part of the decision applies only to state entities” and “does not translate to private universities.”

–Adapted from an article by Marc Perry in The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 4, 2011

Archives