SW Legal Educational Publishing

Internet Service Provider Could Be Liable for Contributory Infringement of Program
Description Owner of copyrighted clip art that was distributed by a Web Page owner could not sue Internet server for direct or vicarious infringement, but could for contributory infringement to determine if it was aware of the infringement.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Infringement, Copyright, Internet, Web Page
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Marobie released copyrighted clip art for use by the fire service industry. The National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors (NAFED) had a Web Page on which it placed Marobie's clip art so that it could be downloaded by any Web user. Marobie sued NAFED and Northwest, the provider of the host computer for NAFED's Web Page, for infringement.
Decision Summary judgment against NAFED granted; it violated the copyright agreement on the clip art. With respect to Northwest: The copying "was caused not by Northwest, but by Internet users...Northwest only provides the means to copy, distribute or display plaintiff's works, much like the owner of a public copying machine used by a third party to copy protected material. Like a copying machine owner, Northwest did not actually engage in any of these activities itself." Northwest charged NAFED a flat fee for its services. Since it could not financially benefit from the infringement, there is no vicarious liability. However, "it is unclear whether Northwest knew that any material on NAFED's Web Page was copyrighted and, if it did know, when it knew. The degree to which Northwest monitored, controlled, or had the ability to monitor or control the contents of NAFED's Web Page is also unclear." Possible contributory infringement by Northwest may be tried.
Citation Marobie-FL, Inc. v. Nacl. Assn. of Fire Equipment Distributors, ---F.Supp.--- (1997 WL 709747, N.D. Ill.)
983 F. supp. 1167 (N.D. Ill, 1997)

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