By Robert Menta- 10/18/00
Could it be that a mere link to another web site alone can become a crime? One thing we do know, a bid to officially declare linking a universal right of the net will not be decided in California court.
MP3Board.com lost such a bid in it attempt to derail a counter suit from the major music labels. MP3Board.com contends that it simply posts links to content hosted on other Web sites, and that there is nothing illegal about such hyperlinks. They wanted the California courts to officially agree, setting a precedent favorable to the site's case.
But the strategy, while not exactly backfiring, was delivered a setback as U.S. District Judge Ronald White decided to punt and ordered the case be dismissed in a California courtroom since an identical case was ongoing in New York. Such a decision will now be bundled with the related NY case against the company.
"It is essential to the Net that there is an implied license to link to other Web sites," said Ira Rothken, MP3Board's attorney. "Otherwise, any site that aggregates links would be guilty of copyright infringement."
That is what the music industry wants and a recent precedent in NY makes the shift to that state a move in their favor. In that case, the MPAA v. hacker web site 2600, 2600 was posting links that lead to a program called DeCSS, code created by a young Scandinavian programmer to allow users to watch DVDs on Linux computers. To do this, the software decodes the scheme that is used to protect DVDs from piracy.
The NY courts barred 2600 from linking to such sites, setting a precedent making some linking illegal. While this precedent only applies within NY states - and indeed may not stand on appeal in federal court - other states can use the ruling as an influence to similar cases within their borders.
But since the MP3Board.com trial will continue in NY, a judge is open to directly apply that precedent to this case should they see fit. This doesn't mean MP3Board.com is guaranteed to lose, its merits are different than in the DeCSS case, but it does increase their risk in this litigation. They don't want to have to go to the expense of possibly taking this case through several appeals courts, that's why they hoped to prevail in California.
The case is attracting attention from the online community for its potential to set precedents on legal Web site links. A loss would have wide-ranging effects beyond digital downloads.
Right now, MP3board is less concerned about how a loss could change the very nature of the web as we know it and more about just simply staying in business.
Copyright 2000 MP3 Newswire. All rights reserved.
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