Legal Realism in Action: Indirect Copyright Liability's Continuing Tort Framework and Sony's De Facto Demise

63 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2007 Last revised: 16 Jan 2012

Peter S. Menell

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

David Nimmer

Irell & Manella LLP

Date Written: February 28, 2007

Abstract

The Supreme Court's indirect copyright liability standard, derived in Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios from patent law and reasserted in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., is widely seen as creating a safe harbor for distributors of dual use technologies. Yet, when one looks to cases decided since Sony, legislative enactments, and the decisions of technology companies in the marketplace, a very different reality emerges. This article explores and explains the broad gulf between the idealized (and idolized) Sony safe harbor and the practical reality. It shows that the law in many respects reflects the tort principles that undergird copyright liability more generally.

Keywords: Copyright, Contributory Liability, Indirect Liability

JEL Classification: O34, Z10, K30

Suggested Citation

Menell, Peter S. and Nimmer, David, Legal Realism in Action: Indirect Copyright Liability's Continuing Tort Framework and Sony's De Facto Demise (February 28, 2007). UCLA Law Review, Vol. 55, p. 143, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=966380 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.966380

Peter S. Menell (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

David Nimmer

Irell & Manella LLP ( email )

1800 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 900
Los Angeles, CA 90067
United States
310-277-1010 or (310) 203-7079 (Phone)

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