The MPA (Motion Picture Association) has long held that copyright infringement is theft, but a UK High Court ruling found that copyright owners do not have the right to seek profits from copyright infringement.
The case involved the site Newzbin2, an NZB-indexing site, and found that they did not have to hand money over to studios for copyright infringement that the studios allege was the fault of the USENET indexing site.
The finding was found that the studio’s assertion that they should have the ability to reap financial rewards from the alleged copyright infringement would have a chilling effect on both creativity and innovation.
Newzbin was found liable for copyright infringement by the High Court in 2010. Following the shutdown of the original site, Newzbin2 popped up in its place, but that site shut down, as well. In November of 2012, the MPA decided to sue the payment processor for Newsbin2, Kthxbai Limited.
The owner of Kthxbai turned out to be David Harris, who was responsible for defending Newzbin in court during the first trial, according to TorrentFreak. He was among those named in the new lawsuit.
The argument put forth by the MPA is a familiar one: that copyright infringement is akin to theft. The MPA case referenced the fact that the word “steal” had been used in a prior case involving video piracy and attempted to connect the new claim to a claim involving stolen coins.
The Judge in the case found that the MPA’s attempt to equate copyright infringement to theft did not stand. In the opinion, the Judge said that copyright infringement has more in common with trespassing. While someone who is stolen from loses the title to their property, someone who has their copyright infringed upon does retain the right to the property. Further in his argument, the Judge found that a landowner has “no proprietary claim to the fruits of a trespass”, according to the article.
The Judge found that the MPA argument could be extended to include the entire proceeds of a sale, which may be unfair and which could “stultify enterprise”.
The Judge voiced concerns in his opinion that the central argument of the claim could prevent someone from pursuing an activity if they felt that there was even a small risk that what they were doing might violate a copyright. The judge agreed with the defense in that this could have a chilling effect on innovation and creativity, according to the reporting.
The MPA will likely appeal the ruling but, for the moment, the High Court has found that copyright owners do not have a claim to profits that may have been generated by copyright infringement. This could be good news for the USENET industry, as they have been more and more in the signs of Hollywood in recent years.