In Atlantic Recording Corporation et al. v. Project Playlist, Inc. 2009 WL 766224 (S.D.N.Y.) six of the world's largest record companies sued the defendant, Project Playlist, Inc. (“Project Playlist”), for copyright infringement in the District Court for the Southern District of New York. (See Complaint for Damages and Injunctive Relief). The Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from Project Playlist's permitting users to create playlists through links to music featured on other websites without first obtaining the approval or licensing rights from the sites. Project Playlist moved for dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ state law claims for common law copyright infringement and unfair competition on the grounds that such claims were barred by the 47 U.S.C. § 230 (the Communications Decency Act, hereinafter the “Act”). The Court held that though Project Playlist was an Internet service provider under the Act, it was excluded from the statutory immunity afforded by Section 230(c)(2) because the Plaintiffs' claims arose from state intellectual property law and fell under the exception set forth in Section 230(e)(2).
The Court made special mention of the dual concerns addressed in the creation of the Act. The Act was intended to create an equipoise between shielding underage children from explicit material on the Internet while encouraging the growth of the worldwide web by providing immunity for those who merely disseminated works created by others. The Defendant sought to qualify itself as an Internet service provider subject to the immunity offered by Section 230 of the Act. The Court found that Project Playlist was, in fact, an Internet service provider subject to Section 230 immunity and noted that the Project Playlist's website merely provided visitors with links to other sites that “created” the disputed content and facilitated the interface with those “content” providers.
However, the Court went on to note that even such qualification could not spare the Defendant from the Plaintiffs' state law intellectual property claims. Specifically, the Act carves out exceptions for prosecution of intellectual property claims in Section 230(e) entitled “Effect on other laws.” Section 230(e)(2) denotes that that act shall have “No effect on intellectual property law. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or expand any law pertaining to intellectual property.” The Defendant sought a narrow reading of the statute to focus on only “federal intellectual property laws.” Such a narrow reading would leave the state law claims outside the statutory exception and provide the Defendant with the necessary shield of immunity provided by Section 230(c)(1).
However, the Court noted that Section 230(e) makes special reference to invoke state and federal qualifiers to properly denote jurisdiction where needed. Accordingly, the Court concluded that if Congress meant for Section 230(e)(2) to pertain only to federal intellectual property claims, it would have stated that explicitly. Accordingly, the Court ruled that the Defendant, though it qualified as an Internet service provider for the purposes of immunity under the Act, could not take advantage of the statutory immunity due to the exception set forth in Section 230(e)(2).
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