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MP3Tunes ‘Safe Harbor’ Challenge Is Legal Test for Cloud Storage

Good Wired post by Sam Gustin about the threat copyright law poses to the ability to store content in the Cloud:

MP3Tunes ‘Safe Harbor’ Challenge Is Legal Test for Cloud Storage

A key test of digital-copyright law will be heard soon in New York federal court: whether online music storage services and search engines can be held liable when users upload copyright material. The outcome could have far-reaching implications for so-called “cloud-based” services, which allow users to store their content on remote servers accessible on the internet.

Among the key issues is the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects internet service providers like Google, Yahoo and Facebook from copyright liability if they promptly remove infringing content upon notification. Several influential digital rights groups filed a brief last Tuesday supporting the defendant in the case, MP3tunes. They urged the court to uphold the “safe harbor” provision, lest online innovation be stifled.

For MP3tunes CEO Michael Robertson, this case is personal. He could be held personally liable for massive monetary damage.

Three years ago, several labels and publishers affiliated with major record label EMI sued MP3tunes, which provides an online music “locker” service where users can store their music and access it from computers and mobile devices. MP3tunes also operates a music search engine called Sideload, where people can find music tracks on other sites and then put them in their locker.

To EMI, MP3tunes and Sideload represent a two-step mechanism for the discovery and acquisition of copyright music. MP3tunes argues that its service merely allows users to store their music online so they can listen to it anywhere. And even if some users upload copyright content, the company says, it can’t be found liable because it is protected by the DMCA.

Opposition briefs are due Wednesday. Oral arguments begin in January.

MP3tunes CEO and founder Michael Robertson is a veteran of the digital music wars: He tangled with the industry a decade ago with his previous company, MP3.com. (After the major labels successfully sued MP3.com, Universal Music Group turned around and bought the company for $385 million.) He’s also a respected tech entrepreneur. Last year Robertson sold his web-based calling startup Gizmo5 to Google for $30 million, giving him the resources to mount a defense against an industry that is as happy to bankrupt an opponent out of existence as to win in court.

The two combatants in this lawsuit have starkly different views of what the case is about. For MP3tunes and Robertson, what’s at issue is nothing less than the future of cloud computing. “This case will define digital-media ownership in the 21st century,” Robertson told Wired.com by e-mail. “Can companies assist their consumers in storing their possessions on the cloud where they can control them? That’s the issue at stake.”

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.