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Warner v. Seeqpod Complaint

Click for full text

The music industry is at it again.  Warner Music Group  has brought suit against SeeqPod, an increasingly popular search engine for music and video.  The suit targets a key provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) that allows search engines to safely link to content on other folks’ servers. 

Section 512 of the DMCA protects online service providers (OSPs) from liability for information posted or transmitted by subscribers if they quickly remove or disable access to material identified in a copyright holder’s complaint.

Fred Von Lohmann, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, breaks down the complaint (click image for full text):

“This is the latest in a string of lawsuits against Web 2.0 companies. Together, the suits represent an attack by the entertainment industry on the DMCA safe harbors that protect hosting services and search engines. Other similar cases have been filed against YouTube, MP3Tunes.com, Veoh, PornoTube, and Divx/Stage 6.

The SeeqPod case is different, however, because it is among the first that directly tests how copyright law applies to search engines. Despite the success of search engines like Yahoo and Google, there has been remarkably little case law developed on the copyright front. Part of the reason is because Congress stepped in with the DMCA safe harbors in 1998, creating some degree of certainty where the background legal concepts (e.g., contributory infringement) did not. In addition, by endorsing a notice-and-takedown regime, the DMCA safe harbors created a solution for many copyright owners that is cheaper than litigation.”

My thoughts:

1.  Expect an immediate rise in SeeqPod’s popularity.  Lawsuits have a funny way of making this happen.

2.  Music industry behemoths really need to get it together.  How about creating their own search engine and capturing some (or all) of that revenue themselves?  Or, since the brains at SeeqPod have done it for you, why not license the technology from them? Copyright lawsuits are always interesting because whereas patent and trademark lawsuits are typically fought between competitors, copyright owners are often targeting the very companies that help transmit their works to consumers.  Hopefully, in 2009, the music industry will start viewing these situations as opportunities for partnership and licensing, rather than traditional knock-down litigation.

3.  SeeqPod…what’s up?  No federal registration for your trademark?  Check out this post and give us a call…we can help.

SeeqPod USPTO

4.  I was able to listen to some really cool Beatles’ Christmas recordings I had never heard (nor had any idea they existed) while checking out SeeqPod for this post.  This underscores the real value that music/video-specific search engines like SeeqPod can provide.  There simply has to be a better way to harness these technologies to the benefit of everyone…artists, labels, publishers and consumers.  Compensation, not control.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this lawsuit and provide updates as they arise.  Thanks to Ryan C. for the story.