Hosting a Pirate Site Doesn't Amount to Infringement, Judge Says

Hosting a Pirate Site Doesn't Amount to Infringement, Judge Says
Rhett Pardon

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge has decided that a third-party hosting company that provided services to alleged pirated websites isn’t necessarily liable for copyright infringement.

U.S. District Judge George Wu, in a tentative ruling made last week, granted defendant Steadfast Networks LLC’s motion to dismiss over claims that the Chicago-based hosting provider should be held liable for alleged pirated adult content that was found on Imagebam.com.

The plaintiff in the case, ALS Scan, last year sued a number of third-party services, namely the JuicyAds ad network, content delivery network CloudFlare and several hosting providers, including Steadfast.

In the Steadfast ruling, Wu said that merely hosting a pirate site does not make the hosting service liable for any copyright infringement actions the site may be guilty of.

In its motion to dismiss, Steadfast argued that it did not manage or operate the Imagebam site, and that it only provided computer storage.

"The court is unaware of any authority holding that merely alleging that a defendant provides some form of 'hosting' service to an infringing website is sufficient to establish contributory copyright infringement," Wu wrote.

“The court would therefore find that the [complaint] fails to allege facts establishing that Steadfast materially contributed to the infringement,” Wu wrote.

In October, Wu sided with defendant JuicyAds and dismissed the complaint against the ad network, holding that a third party can only be liable for contributing to copyright infringement where its participation in the infringing conduct of the primary infringer is substantial or where it intentionally encourages the infringing activity.

Wu found that ALS Scan failed to allege any link between JuicyAds’ services and the infringing conduct of the pirate websites, and therefore had failed to state a claim for contributory copyright infringement.

Wu also dismissed claims for vicarious copyright infringement and contributory trademark infringement, reasoning that the complaint failed to allege that JuicyAds had the right and ability to supervise and control the infringing conduct of the pirate websites.  

Also in October, Wu held that the ALS Scan adequately pleaded a claim under a material contribution theory because it alleged that CloudFlare’s content delivery network services made it faster and easier for consumers to access infringing websites and load infringing images from any location.

However, Wu held that ALS Scan had failed to allege a claim under an inducement theory because there were no allegations that CloudFlare directly encouraged the pirate websites to display infringing content.

In addition, Wu dismissed vicarious copyright and contributory trademark infringement claims because CloudFlare did not have the legal right to stop the infringing websites or remove the infringing content from the pirate websites.

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