Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc., No. 14-56596 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In order to be eligible for the safe harbor protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), the defendant must show that the photographs at issue were stored at the direction of the user. The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion reversing the district court's holding, on summary judgment, that defendant was protected by the safe harbor of the DMCA from liability for posting plaintiff's photographs online and vacating a discovery order. The panel held that the common law of agency applied to safe harbor defenses and that, in this case, there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators are LiveJournal's agents. The panel addressed the remaining elements of the safe harbor defense and vacated the district court's order denying discovery of the moderators' identities. The panel remanded for further proceedings.
Court Description: Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The panel filed an amended opinion (1) reversing the district court’s holding, on summary judgment, that the defendant was protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act from liability for posting the plaintiff’s photographs online and (2) vacating a discovery order. In its amended opinion, the panel held that the safe harbor set forth in 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) would apply if the photographs were stored at the direction of users. The defendant, a social media platform, posted the photographs after a team of volunteer moderators, led by an employee of the defendant, reviewed and approved them. The panel held that whether the photographs were stored at the direction of users depended on whether the acts of the moderators could be attributed to the defendant. Disagreeing with the district court, the panel held that the common law of agency applied to the defendant’s safe harbor defense. Because there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators were the defendant’s agents, the panel reversed the district court’s summary judgment and remanded the case for trial. The panel also discussed the remaining elements of the safe harbor affirmative defense. If an internet service provider shows that the infringing material was posted “at the direction of the user,” it must then also show that (1) it lacked MAVRIX PHOTOGRAPHS V. LIVEJOURNAL 3 actual or red flag knowledge of the infringing material; and (2) it did not financially benefit from infringements that it had the right and ability to control. The panel held that to fully assess actual knowledge, the fact finder must consider not only whether the copyright holder has given notice of the infringement, but also the service provider’s subjective knowledge of the infringing nature of the posts. The panel held that to determine whether the defendant had red flag knowledge, the fact finder would need to assess whether it would be objectively obvious to a reasonable person that material bearing a generic watermark or a watermark referring to the plaintiff’s website was infringing. When assessing the service provider’s right and ability to control the infringements, the fact finder should consider the service provider’s procedures that existed at the time of the infringements and whether the service provider had “something more” than the ability to remove or block access to posted materials. Finally, the panel vacated the district court’s order denying discovery of the moderators’ identities. It remanded the case for further proceedings.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on April 7, 2017.