Record Company Sues Google And Microsoft For Allegedly Allowing Access To File-Sharing Service
The music company Blues Destiny Records has sued Google and Microsoft for copyright infringement for allegedly returning results that allow users to find pirated music hosted by the file-sharing service RapidShare.
In the lawsuit, brought this week in federal court in the northern district of Florida, Blues Destiny alleges that Google and Microsoft have contributed to infringement of more than two dozen tracks by three artists -- Ronny Sessum, Roy Powers and Peter McGraw. Blues Destiny also alleges that the German file-sharing service RapidShare has infringed the musicians' copyright.
RapidShare allegedly hosts infringing material -- including complete albums and artwork -- which are uploaded and downloaded by users. The company "has built its business by knowingly facilitating and enabling the trade of illegal unauthorized copyrighted content for its own profit," Blues Destiny alleges.
The company also argues that Google and Bing enable unlawful sharing by allegedly returning results that allow users to find pirated files. In addition, Blues Destiny says that Bing "goes a step further than Google" by allegedly displaying the names of all song titles available on the infringing sites.
"By providing the very means by which users locate and download illegal copyrighted song files, Microsoft is inducing, facilitating and materially contributing to copyright infringement," the lawsuit states.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act "safe harbor" provisions say that search engines like Google and Bing are immune from copyright liability as long as they remove infringing material upon request, but it's not clear whether those safe harbors would apply here.
The record label alleges in its court filings that Microsoft removed the links in question, but that it sent Google 17 takedown requests without receiving a response. But cyberlaw expert Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara, says in a blog post that the notices to Google did not specify whether the company was returning links to RapidShare or to other sites that linked to the service.
In addition, he says, a prior appellate court decision about search engines and safe harbors appears to have left the door open to Blues Destiny's lawsuit. "Given the ambiguities of that opinion, the plaintiff's action here isn't clearly wrong as a doctrine matter," he writes. "However, in my opinion, it is nevertheless ill-advised and unlikely to succeed."
Google and Microsoft declined to comment on the lawsuit.