Germany

Lèse Majesté: 16th Century Censorship Meets 21st Century Law

When hearing the expression “lèse majesté,” images of the Queen of Hearts ordering heads to be chopped off ASAP may come to mind. Marie-Antoinette, the queen who was once a “majesté” in France, herself lost her head during the French Revolution. Surely, the crime of lèse majesté is now a thing of the past?

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

United States v. Megaupload Limited

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Date: 

01/05/2012

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Megaupload Limited, Vestor Limited, Kim Dotcom, Finn Batato, Julius Bencko, Sven Echternach, Mathias Ortmann, Andrus Nomm, and Bram van der Kolk

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

Legal Counsel: 

Ira Rothkin (counsel for defendant Megaupload Limited), Paul Davison Q.C. (counsel for defendant Dotcom), Guyon Foley, Barrister (counsel for defendant Dotcom)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On January 5, 2012, a grand jury convened in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued an indictment against Megaupload Limited, its affiliate Vestor Limited, and principals Kim Dotcom (a resident of New Zealand and Hong Kong, and a citizen of Finland and Germany), Finn Batato (a citizen of Germany), Julius Bencko (a citizen of Slovakia), Sven Echternach (a citizen of Germany), Mathias Ortmann (a citizen of Germany and a resident of Hong Kong), Adrus Nomm (a citizen of Estonia), and Bram van der Kolk (a citizen of the Netherlands and New Zealand).

The indictment alleges that the organization and its principals were engaged in a systematic conspiracy to commit and profit from copyright infringement, through operation of the megaupload.com domain name and its affiliates, including megavideo.com.  According to the indictment, before its seizure, Megaupload operated as a "cyberlocker" or file hosting service website, where users were able to upload content to Megaupload servers and receive a unique URL which identified where the file could be downloaded later. Megaupload did not charge users for the basic service, and offered a premium subscription that featured faster bandwidth and fewer limitations on accessing the content stored. The website also featured an "Uploader Rewards" program, which gave monetary compensation for users that uploaded especially popular files to the system. Specific allegations are made stating that the defendants directly copied material without permission, helped others commit copyright infringement, received a direct financial benefit from infringement, and induced others to commit copyright infringement.

The indictment lists five criminal counts, all related to the underlying allegation of criminal copyright infringement. In addition to criminal copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. §506 and 18 U.S.C. § 2319), the indictment alleges conspiracy to commit racketeering (18 U.S.C. § 1962) by being engaged in an enterprise to commit criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering (18 U.S.C. § 1956) by transferring money that constituted the proceeds of criminal copyright infringement, and aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringement (18 U.S.C. § 2). The indictment alleges that Megaupload did not designate a copyright agent, as is required under the  "safe harbor" of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 512), and that Megaupload would deliberately avoid taking down an allegedly infringing file based on a infringement notice, opting instead to only delete the link to the file on which the complaint was based.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Dotcom, Batato, van der Kolk, and Ortmann were arrested on January 19, 2012. On January 27, 2012, the Department of Justice filed a letter informing the defendants and the court that the DOJ had conducted a search of Megaupload service providers Carpathia Hosting, Inc. and Cogent Communications, Inc. in Virginia and the District of Columbia. The DOJ had copied the files from servers licensed to Megaupload, and informed the court that the hosting companies may begin deleting the contents of those servers beginning on February 2nd. On February 1, 2012, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a letter to the parties and the court on behalf of an undisclosed client, asking the court to preserve the material stored by Megaupload at the direction of the website's users, noting that many individuals had relied on the service for innocent, noninfringing storage of content. According to a Twitter post made by Megaupload Limited's attorney, the hosting services have agreed to temporarily preserve the servers until an agreement can be reached on how to preserve the material stored at the direction of innocent users.

The extradition process is currently underway for defendants arrested in New Zealand. According to BBC News, Mr. Dotcom was denied bail based on flight risk concerns.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

1/25 AFS began skeleto, filled out 2/6.

Threat Source: 

Court Filings
RSS

A New Leistungsschutzrecht? Say It's Nicht So!

It's tough being a publisher these days.  Of course, no one is having much fun in the current economic downturn, but publishers were up against it even before the slowdown.  Circulations have been down across the board for years now, which in turn has slashed the advertising revenues that print publications have always relied upon to survive.  It's just a bad time to be publishing newspapers and magazines, at least while using the classical publishing business model.

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German Courts Say Nein to Google Image Search

Google appears to be learning the hard way that there's "kein fairer Gebrauch" (no fair use) in Germany.  The Internet search giant lost two German copyright decisions Monday, as the courts ruled that the thumbnail images that appear in Google Image Search violate German copyright law.  Bloomberg reports:

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Content Type: 

T-Mobile v. Engadget

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

03/20/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Weblogs, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On March 20, 2008, Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile, sent a letter to Weblogs, Inc., the company that runs Engadget, requesting that it stop using the color magenta in the logo for its Engadget Mobile news blog. The letter, which is available on Engadget, states that T-Mobile has been "using the color magenta as a company identifier and core branding element for years," and that "the company therefore holds trademark protection for the use of this color in connection with its products and services in many territories around the world."

The letter goes on, in an uncommonly polite tone for a C&D, to indicate that customers might be confused about T-Mobile's relationship to the blog. Even more diplomatically, it continues: "we would therefore appreciate if you would replace the color magenta in the Engadget Mobile logo and discontinue using the color in a trademark-specific way on your website." The letter concludes with a request that Engadget "respond with any comments" within two weeks. T-Mobile officers deny that this is a cease-and-desist letter at all (which is a plausible reading), indicating instead that it was meant to "open a dialogue."

Engadget does not see the letter as a request or invitation to dialogue, but as a demand (also a plausible reading). And the blog has responded by posting the letter and arguing that there are no grounds for confusion. Engadget has also changed its logo in jest to make it look more like T-Mobile's. A number of other tech and mobile phone bloggers have "gone magenta" in solidarity with Engadget (here, here, here, and here). As of April 3, T-Mobile has taken no further action.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Likelihood of Confusion blog

Status checked on 6/9/2008, no new information. There was a related posting on Engadget about T-Mobile's loss in a similar magenta-related suit against Telia in Denmark, which I thought was too tangential to include in the description, but salient enough to throw into the related links field. (AAB)

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Jurisdiction: 

Regulating Blog Campaign Advocacy

Allison Hayward, an assistant professor of law at George Mason University, has a new article coming out entitled Regulation of Blog Campaign Advocacy on the Internet: Comparing U.S., German, and EU Approaches. (Credit to Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy for the tip.) Hayward writes in her abstract:

In brief, U.S. law protects blogging content, but may impose restrictions on the source of political commentary by barring certain funding sources. German law imposes stricter limits on the content of blogging, but does not regulate financial sources to the same degree. European court rulings may offer greater protection than domestic German law, but seem inconsistent and thus add uncertainty and ambiguity to the situation. In the end, bloggers may avoid legal entanglement because they enjoy public sympathy and support, but better still would be an international agreement to spare blogging from prosecution.

This is a subject we are working on for the CMLP Legal Guide, so I eagerly printed her excellent article (yes, I prefer to read things in hard copy). I'll touch on a few of the more important issues in this post.

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