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Association for Information Media & Equipment v. Regents of the University of California

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Citation Edit

Association for Information Media & Equipment v. Regents of the University of California, No. CV 10-9378 CBM (MANx) (C.D. Cal. Oct. 3, 2011) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Ambrose Video Publishing ("AVP") is an educational media company and member of the Association for Information Media & Equipment ("AIME"), a non-profit trade association whose mission is to help ensure copyright education and compliance. Plaintiffs AVP and AIME brought this action against the Regents of the University of California, Mark Yudof, President of the University of California, Dr. Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA, Dr. Sharon Farb, UCLA’s Associate University Librarian for Collection Management and Scholarly Communication, Larry Loeher, UCLA’s Associate Vice Provost and Director of Instructional Development, and Patricia O’Donnell, Manager of UCLA’s Instructional Media Collections and Services and Media La, all in their official and individual capacities. The action was filed in connection with AVP DVDs that the Defendants allegedly reformatted and uploaded to the UCLA computer network so that students could stream their content.

In 2009, AVP, through AIME, contacted UCLA through its Chancellor, objecting to the use of AVP’s DVDs on the UCLA server and the ability of students worldwide to stream their content. While UCLA initially removed the materials from its network, the content was ultimately restored after UCLA determined that the practice did not violate the terms of its Licensing Agreement with AVP. Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint asserts federal claims for copyright infringement and unlawful circumvention, a declaratory relief claim, and state claims for breach of contract, anticipatory breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, tortious interference with contractual relations, and tortious interference with prospective business advantage.

The Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that (1) the Defendants are immune from suit; (2) Plaintiff AIME lacks standing; and (3) Plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

In order for a state to be validly sued in federal court, the state must have either expressly waived sovereign immunity or Congress must have validly abrogated sovereign immunity. A waiver of this Eleventh Amendment protection can be found when a state makes a “clear declaration” that it intends to submit itself to federal court jurisdiction.[1] Plaintiffs’ base their argument for such a declaration on the 2008-2011 licensing contract between AVP and the Regents. That contract states that “Licensee hereby consents to the jurisdiction of the state and federal courts located in New York, New York.” The court notes, however, that the agreement only waives contractual claims, not the claims asserted under copyright infringement and DMCA. As such, the Regents did not waive sovereign immunity as to the federal claims.

Furthermore, the court agreed with the Defendants’ motion pertaining to AIME’s lack of standing. Typically, standing requires that a plaintiff have suffered an injury in fact; that there be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of; and that it be likely that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.[2] An association may assert standing when: (1) its members would have standing to sue on their own, (2) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization’s purpose, and (3) the case does not require the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.[3] Because a copyright claim requires the participation of the individual copyright owners[4] AIME cannot establish the third prong of associational standing and as a result, the court granted Defendants’ motion as to lack of standing.

The few remaining Defendants successfully argued that Plaintiffs had insufficiently pled their copyright infringement claim because (1) AVP had granted Defendants the right to publicly perform the DVDs at issue in the Licensing Agreement; (2) UCLA’s streaming practice is not a “public display” under the Copyright Act; (3) there are no allegations that UCLA distributed copies of the DVD, as “streaming” is not distribution; and (4) any unauthorized copying was an incidental “fair use” under the Copyright Act and therefore permissible.

AVP concedes that it licensed Defendants to “publicly perform” the DVDs at issue. Plaintiff’s main argument, however, is that streaming is not included in a public performance because it can be accessed outside of a classroom, and as remotely as overseas. This argument seems to ignore the fact that UCLA’s network is only accessible by students and faculty; their location at the time of access is irrelevant when compared to their status as the class of individual intended to view the content under the License Agreement. Because copying the DVD in order to upload it to the UCLA network was a necessary part of exercising the right of public performance, the court ruled that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim for copyright infringement. The court similarly dismissed Plaintiff’s DMCA claims, which was based on unsupported allegations of a third party service circumventing the copy prevention system used by AVP in its DVDs. Finally, as Plaintiff’s state law claims were preempted by the Copyright Act, the complaint in its entirety was dismissed.

References Edit

  1. College Sav. Bank v. Fla. Prepaid Postsecondary Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 675-76 (1999) (full-text).
  2. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992) (full-text).
  3. See Hunt v. Washington St. Apple Advertising Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 343 (1977) (full-text).
  4. Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 453 (9th Cir. 2006) (full-text).

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