July 26, 2000

Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's Ruling [Transcript] - Part 1

The court: Well, counsel. A lot of paper has been filed in this case and I suppose we could hear a lot more argument, and we could take a lot more time with this. And ultimately I will reduce the court's decision to writing, but I think it's time for there to be a decision on the preliminary injunction motion because you have been waiting for this and you have been through a round of motions earlier under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I think that plenty of time has been expended in preparing for the motion. Certainly plenty of paper has been expended as well, that the court is able to render a decision on the motion for preliminary injunction.

To prevail on a motion for preliminary injunction--and this is going to take a while because I'm going to go through the elements and the claims and defenses--but to prevail on a motion for a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs must demonstrate a combination of probable success on the merits--and possibility of irreparable harm or on the continuum scale of serious legal questions that are raised--and a balance of hardships tipping in the plaintiffs' favor. I think it's safer to stay with the first of those; in other words, the higher end of the continuum.

In copyright cases the reasonable likelihood of success on the merits does create a presumption or irreparable harm. And don't everybody go bolting for the door, but I will tell you right now what my conclusion is on that and then go through the reasons for it.

I find that plaintiffs have shown not just a reasonable likelihood of success but a strong likelihood of success on the merits. First of all with respect to direct infringement, because in order to establish either contributory or vicarious liability, they must establish direct infringement by a third party, in this case the users of Napster.

And here the evidence establishes that a majority of Napster users use the service to download and upload copyrighted music. This, in fact, should come as no surprise to Napster, since that really--it's clear from the evidence in this case and the early records that were divulged in discovery--was the purpose of it.

And by doing that, it constitutes--the uses constitute--direct infringement of plaintiffs' musical compositions--recordings that are copyrighted. And it is pretty much acknowledged also by Napster that this is infringement unless they can fall back on an affirmative defense because of the warnings that are given to the users of the system that they may be infringing and by statements made in their own documents when this business was getting off the ground.

Also, according to the evidence before the court, as much as 87 percent of the music--and I think that's a fairly reasonable figure and fairly well supported in the evidence--87 percent of the music available on Napster may be copyrighted. Certainly a substantial amount of it is.

Now, defendants have raised the fair use defense. That is an affirmative defense. Defendants have the burden on that defense, and to rebut allegations of infringement, they have raised this based upon Sony and its progeny, but particularly Sony, where the Supreme Court stated that any individual may reproduce a copyrighted work for a fair use.

Sony also stands for the rule that a manufacturer is not liable for selling a staple article of commerce, and that's in quotes from the case, that is, quote, "capable of commercially significant noninfringing uses."

Fair use and substantial noninfringing use arguments are in fact affirmative defenses, and defendant, as I said, has the burden of showing that a given use constitutes a fair use.

The court finds that--and then I'll go through the elements of this--but the finding is that any of the potential noninfringing uses of the Napster service are minimal. Some of them seem to be thought of them afterward and after this litigation started; but the substantial or commercially significant use of the service was and continues to be copying popular music, most of which is copyrighted and for which no authorization has been obtained.

While it may be capable of some of these other things, that seems to--those uses seem to--pale by comparison to what Napster is used for, what it was promoted for, and what it continues to be used for.

Now, the court must consider, and the factors the court must consider, among others, is, the four that are specifically enumerated in Sony are: The purpose and characteristic of use, including whether it's of a commercial nature; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for value of the copyrighted work.

I think there's not much dispute with respect to the second and third factors. The copyrighted musical compositions and recordings certainly are the paradigmatic kinds of things for which copyrights are obtained. They're creative in nature. They constitute entertainment and also the third factor. They are, in fact, uploaded or downloaded, or at least can be and generally are, in their entirety. Certainly they're generally made available in their entirety.

As to the first factor, the court finds that although downloading and uploading MP3 music is not a paradigmatic commercial activity, it is not also typical of the personal use--that is, in the traditional sense. It may be what makes this case difficult--or any of the cases involving new technology--is that it is hard sometimes to make a neat fit.

The mere fact that, that fit is not an easy one does not mean that plaintiffs have to forego enforcing their rights under the copyright laws.

Plaintiffs have not shown that the majority of Napster users download the music for sale or for profit, and it would appear that they probably do not. However, there is evidence that Napster anticipates proudly that more than 70 million users by the end of the year 2000 will be on Napster in some fashion or another.

Given the vast scale which Napster and the Internet can in fact access--numbers and numbers of users--and that the uses among anonymous individuals, not just a sharing among friends and typical of the more private use, that cases have seen at the very least a host user sending a file cannot be said to engage merely in the typical personal use when distributing the file to, in this case, many anonymous requesters.

Moreover, the fact that Napster users get for free something they ordinarily would have to pay for suggests that they reap--the users reap--an economic advantage from Napster use.

As to the fourth factor, plaintiffs have produced evidence that Napster use harms the market for the copyrighted work in at least two ways, and we've had a number of studies, and I will spell out in the order the problems with some of those studies. I don't think any of them are, you know, what you would call without flaw.

But selecting out college students, I don't think was inappropriate and, therefore, does not negate the entire study. What it makes clear to the court, however, is that it is only looking at college students and, therefore, we know that it's only looking at a segment of the market. Nonetheless, a segment that Napster itself has said it has targeted. And it gives us a snapshot, particularly for preliminary injunction purposes, of what is happening in a particular market.

I find that the Fader report is far less persuasive. First of all, he relies upon a number of studies that were printed in The Wall Street Journal and Wired and New York Times, and so forth, which may be fine for marketing purposes and strategizing, but it doesn't do very much for a reliable survey for court purposes. I commend to you Judge Schwarzer's book in that respect.

But, in any event, even as to the evaluation of the Greenfield survey, I think there are a number of problems with the Greenfield survey. But we don't really have a breakdown other than that one sheet at the end, and it doesn't tell us very much at all about what the answers really were. At least in the Jay report we have the answers that were given to the questions in the questionnaire. So it's far greater use and more probative to the court than the Fader report.

The other element or factor with respect to this fourth element is the harm by reason of raising barriers to plaintiff's entry into the market for digital downloading of music. The potential fair uses of Napster that have been proffered by defendant are, for example, sampling, space shifting and the authorized distribution of the work of new artists. For the following reasons, I don't find that these constitute the kind of fair uses that are substantial and noninfringing within the meaning of Sony.

First of all, with respect to sampling, sampling does not constitute a noncommercial personal use in the traditional sense because it involves the distribution of music among millions of users.

Plaintiffs have shown a meaningful likelihood that if sampling became widespread, it would reduce the market for copyrighted works. The defendants argue, and I think unpersuasively, that the use of Napster for sampling stimulates CD sales. I don't think in fact the reliable evidence in this case supports that.

Even if sampling did increase CD sales, it would still infringe plaintiffs' right to licensing fees, to control their work to derivative markets, and so forth. And if users can sample songs for free on Napster, they're unlikely to purchase individual songs from the online sites affiliated with plaintiffs. And particularly if they cannot only sample them but copy them, there is certainly less incentive to do what you can do on some sites, and that is just to sample the music but not be able to copy it.

The other use that defendants proffer is space shifting. Now there may be a lot of space shifting going on, but I think the evidence shows that that space shifting is going on not independent of, but in fact in conjunction with, the copying of or downloading of music that is being obtained in a way that I just indicated is infringing. I don't find that the substantial noninfringing use within the meaning of Sony.

Also, the court rejects the application of the Audio Home Recording Act to the pacts of this case. It does not immunize the noncommercial use of Napster in the space shifting areas as they have suggested. That act is irrelevant in fact to this action because plaintiffs have not brought any claims under it. And also, under the 9th Circuit law, neither computers nor hard drives are audio home recording devices, nor is there anything else in this case that involves Napster that is an audio home recording device within the meaning of the statute.

I think the lie is given to that by the fact the defendants argue legislative history. But there's nothing in the act that is so unclear that required that the court go to the legislative history to try to interpret the statute.

Second, defendant fails to show that space shifting constitutes a commercially significant use of Napster. Indeed, the most credible explanation for the exponential growth of traffic on Napster is the vast array of files offered by other users, not the ability of each individual to space shift music that he or she already owns.

Finally, the court declines to apply the staple article of commerce doctrine to Napster on the basis of space shifting because defendant is not merely a manufacturer/seller whose contact with consumers ceases when the product is sold. Rather, as I will go into on the contributory and vicarious infringement, defendant, despite his contention to the contrary, exercises a substantial and ongoing control over its service.

Defendants have also made much of the promotion of new artists who authorize distribution of their work. I think this is something that's sort of come lately to the table. I don' t find that, that constitutes a substantial noninfringing use of Napster.

Indeed, the court would certainly not enjoin that kind of a use, nor would it have the authority to do so; and if, in fact, that is a use that is a substantial use of Napster, then I don't see how they are put out of business, what could be a critical aspect of their business by being enjoined from allowing the copying of copyrighted material for which there is no authorization.

The evidence shows that, in fact, promoting the new artist was not the chief strategy in Napster's business plan. Defendant promoted the availability of songs by major stars as, and I quote from some of their papers, "opposed to having to go through page after page of unknown artists."

Suddenly, they found those unknown artists and would seek to use them as a basis for protection against infringement of the well-known artist whose music they were making available or providing access to.

Napster's purported mission of distributing music by artists unable to obtain record label representation, as I said, appears to have been developed later in the game and after the beginning of this litigation.

So with respect to the affirmative defense of fair use, I do not find that defendants have established or met their burden of proving that they're entitled to the affirmative defense of fair use, or substantial noninfringing uses are in fact in place, or that they're capable of substantial noninfringing uses.

Now with respect to the infringement itself, I said, first of all, in order to establish either contributory or vicarious infringement there must be direct infringement by the users, and we've gone over that.

With respect to contributory infringement, to use the words of the statute: "a contributory infringer is one who with knowledge of the infringing activity induces, causes or materially contributes to the infringing conduct of another. The requirements are actual or constructive knowledge and material contribution to direct infringement." I find that plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on their contributory copyright infringement claims.


Ads by FindLaw