Copyright owners are having an excellent week when it comes to court rulings. CNET reports that a federal lawsuit that was brought against the aggrandizement of copyright law was dismissed by the judge. The lawsuit was filed by a group of "internet archivists" that is headed by Brewster Kahle. It is his intention to create an enormous digital archive called the Internet Archive project. It is easy to see why he is an opponent of copyright protection since it greatly limits the material he will be able to make available in his archive. The group that is part of the lawsuit may be small, but there are millions of people who are not in favor of current copyright law and certainly are opposed to expanding it.
The main contention of Kahle's group is that the lengthening of copyright protection terms by Congress has greatly changed traditional copyright law in a harmful and illegal way. The group considers it especially bad to allow lengthening of a terms automatically by law when an author did not make make a request. The group hoped that the court would find most of the expansion done by Congress to be illegal. If this were so, there would be a great amount of movies, books, etc. that would be in the public domain. However, the court did not agree with the group and found that it was within the power of Congress to expand copyright term limits. The court held that Congress had a lot of flexibility to increase copy protection without interference of the courts. The judge, Maxine Chesney, based her decision on a recent Supreme Court Ruling which held that the court "was not at liberty to second guess congressional determinations and policy judgements of this order." Kahle stated that he would appeal the case and that he had expected to have to prove his case at the appellate level. He says that his main objection is not necessarily the expanison of the terms, but rather the automatic renewal of copyright terms without the author reregistering.
It will be interesting to see how the appellate court will rule, but the odds of Kahle and his group winning do not seem good since the Supreme Court was so clear on the issue of Congressional authority to expand copyright law as it sees fit. However, Kahle believes he will prevail stating:
The key component of the district court ruling is that the judge did not consider the main aspect of this case, which is the changing of the contour of copyright law from opt in to opt out. That has dramatically changed what's under copyright, and even more ominously, changes the nature of what can be put on the Internet.
The ruling against Kahle was not the only victory for copyright owners in court. A federal court has imposed the maximum fine possible for leaking movies to the internet. Carmine Caridi has to pay 300,000 to Warner Bros. Studios for giving The Last Samurai and Mystic River to Russell Sprague, who converted them from VHS to DVD and put them up on the internet. Sprague is currently awaitning sentencing from a conviction for pirating some 200 movies frome the "screener copies" that Academy members receive. Caridi had the movies since he is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures. Academy members receive copies of movies still in theaters so that they can view the movies and vote on them for the Academy Awards. Caridi's conviction should send out a strong warning message to people who might be pirating movies. In this case the judge held that such acts were egregious and deserving of the maximum fine allowed under law.