Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Case of hip hop site ("Dajaz1") suggests that suits for merely linking to copyright-infringing items are possible; why did the government keep the papers sealed so long?

There is a disturbing case concerning the “hip hop blog” website Dajaz1.  The federal government (specifically, customs under ICE) seized it and then held it in secret for about a year waiting for details of RIAA complaints.  There is a typical story on Digital Trends here.  The story goes back to May 2012 (when I was prancing around in California) but it still sounds urgent to me.  
What seems striking to me is not only the secrecy, and the government’s willingness to keep a domain shut down on possibly unfounded copyright allegations while waiting so long for detail, but also the fact that the site was pursued for posting “links” to “pre-release” tracks, which might have been authorized by the plaintiffs. It would appear that the company did not actually copy the videos or music to its own servers. 
Can someone be sued for copyright infringement for a mere hyperlink?  The question comes up with embeds, which are effectively links.  Suits for embeds of infringing youtube videos don’t seem to happen, but could they?
It's interesting to note that now, when people make comments on YouTube videos, they can cause them to become embedded in their own Google+ feeds.  If the video is infringing, theoretically the Google+ member could be pursued as a co-infringer.  This sounds like a ridiculous lawsuit and even "prosecution", and yet the government has kept it under wraps!
Dajaz1’s own statement (about the finally unsealed documents, here)confirms this concern, giving an analogy to how the New York Times, under this theory, could be sued for linking to an announcement of a concert where the promoters haven’t “paid their dues”. 
Before, I’ve considered the idea that it is possible to be sued for libel for merely linking to a libelous item, although such suits (even in a SLAPP world) seem rare in practice. 

See a related posting Nov. 30, 2010 when dajaz1 was mentioned. 
Note that on this blog, and several others, the archive list was moved to the bottom because the “javascript” code would not work without a wider column to display post names.  

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