Rossi v. Motion Picture Ass'n of America, 391 F.3d 1000 (9th Cir. 2004) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
Michael J. Rossi operates “InternetMovies.com” — a website that offers information about movies, and perhaps more. When the MPAA saw that Rossi’s website claimed to offer “Full Length Downloadable Movies,” and that the site contained graphics of MPAA members’ copyrighted motion pictures, the MPAA followed the “notice and take down provisions” of the DMCA. In response, Rossi’s ISP shut down his site.
Although Rossi found a new ISP, he claimed that he lost money while his site was offline. Rossi made these claims in a lawsuit against the MPAA alleging tortious interference with prospective economic advantage and contractual relations, libel and defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
A federal district court granted the MPAA’s motion for summary judgment on all Rossi’s claims. District Judge Barry Kurren dismissed Rossi’s contractual and economic advantage interference claims, because the MPAA had a good faith belief that Rossi’s site contained infringing material, and because the MPAA had complied with the notice and take down provisions of the DMCA. The judge rejected Rossi’s defamation and emotional distress claims because the statements made by the MPAA to Rossi’s ISP were privileged, justified and reasonable.
Appellate Court Proceedings Edit
Rossi appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of his case. Court of Appeals Judge Johnnie Rawlinson held that Rossi did not raise a material issue of fact regarding the MPAA’s good faith belief that he infringed its members’ copyrights.
On appeal, Rossi argued that in order to have a good faith belief that infringement has occurred, copyright owners must conduct a reasonable investigation. Rossi argued that if the MPAA had conducted a reasonable investigation, it would have concluded that Rossi’s site was not a source for downloading movies. The MPAA argued that the “good faith” belief standard is a subjective standard, not the objective standard proposed by Rossi.
Judge Rawlinson agreed with the MPAA because “good faith” traditionally encompasses a subjective standard, and if Congress had wanted to, it “could have easily incorporated an objective standard of reasonableness.” The judge also said that the statement “Full Length Downloadable Movies” compels the conclusion that Rossi’s site was infringing MPAA members’ copyrights. The judge also agreed that the MPAA’s communications with Rossi’s ISP were privileged and reasonable. For these reasons Judge Rawlinson affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the MPAA.