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Volitional conduct doctrine

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Overview Edit

To be liable for direct copyright infringement, a person must have committed some voluntary act that caused the infringement to occur. This is called the volitional conduct doctrine. The doctrine distinguishes between service providers that act as passive conduits for network traffic, on the one hand, and service providers that actively control the information users post and access on their networks. A passive conduit for information should not be liable if those packets contain infringing material.

As stated in Religious Tech. Center v. Netcom:[1]

Where the infringing subscriber is clearly directly liable for the same act, it does not make sense to adopt a rule that could lead to the liability of countless parties whose role in the infringement is nothing more than setting up and operating a system that is necessary for the functioning of the Internet. Such a result is unnecessary as there is already a party directly liable for causing the copies to be made.[2]

References Edit

  1. 907 F. Supp. 1361, 1372 (N.D. Cal. 1995) (full-text).
  2. See also Cartoon Network LP, LLLP v. CSC Holdings, Inc., 536 F.3d 121, 133 (2d Cir. 2008) (full-text) ("Cablevision's contribution to this reproduction by providing the system does not warrant the imposition of direct liability"); CoStar Grp., Inc. v. LoopNet, Inc., 373 F.3d 544, 551 (full-text) ("Netcom made a particularly rational interpretation of § 106 when it concluded that a person had to engage in volitional conduct — specifically, the act constituting infringement — to become a direct infringer").

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