MPAA Warns Appellate Ruling Could Limit Ability to Fight Digital Piracy

An appellate ruling over the importation of digital goods could limit the ability of a federal agency to fight online piracy, the MPAA said on Tuesday.

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the International Trade Commission does not have the authority to block the importation of digital files, concluding that it runs counter to the intent of Congress. If it stands, the ruling has significant ramifications for the entertainment industry.

The case involved the ITC’s effort to prevent patent-infringing 3D digital files from crossing borders, just as it would halt counterfeit physical goods. The case pitted the MPAA and other copyright industries against the tech sector, which argued that the ITC was gaining potentially broad government oversight over Internet transmissions.

The appellate court ruled 2-1 in the case, with Judge Pauline Newman dissenting.

“We are disappointed at the Federal Circuit panel’s 2-1 ruling that the International Trade Commission does not have the authority to block the importation of ‘articles’ that consist of infringing digital transmissions,” the MPAA said in a statement. “This ruling, if it stands, would appear to reduce the authority of the ITC to address the scourge of overseas web sites that engage in blatant piracy of movies, television programs, music, books, and other copyrighted works.”

The majority of the court, in an opinion written by Chief Judge Sharon Prost, said that the ITC’s authority over importation of “articles” was limited to material things. She cited the Tariff Act of 1930.

“We recognize, of course, that electronic transmissions have some physical properties — for example an electron’s invariant mass is a known quantity — but common sense dictates that there is a fundamental difference between electronic transmissions and ‘material things,'” Prost wrote in the majority opinion.

The MPAA argued in an amicus brief that the intent of Congress was for trade law to protect U.S. industries “from all manner of unfair acts.”

“As Judge Newman’s dissent trenchantly argues, the majority ignores precedent and logic, and removes a vast body of technology from the protection of a statute designed for its protection,” the MPAA said. “We will be watching closely for further proceedings in this case, including potential en banc review, and continue to support the ITC in its efforts to address 21st Century challenges.”

Some public interest groups saw the ruling as a significant victory.

Charles Duan, director of the patent reform project at Public Knowledge, said, “This decision is a big win for the open Internet. By rejecting the ITC’s attempt to expand its jurisdiction, the Federal Circuit helps to ensure that Internet users have unfettered access to the free flow of information that has proved so useful for innovation and free expression.”

More Biz

  • Katherine Johnson dead

    Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Depicted in 'Hidden Figures,' Dies at 101

    Katherine Johnson, a pioneering NASA mathematician who was fundamental in landing men on the moon and was depicted in the film “Hidden Figures,” died on Monday. She was 101. “We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson,” NASA announced on Twitter. “Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her [...]

  • Cannes VR

    Cannes Film Festival Plots Major Expansion to VR Program

    Cannes XR, the Marché du Film’s program dedicated to immersive and augmented reality content, is set to expand. For its second edition, Cannes XR has partnered with tech creator Positron and Brogent Technologies to introduce a new VR theater, dedicated space and competition. While keeping its 700-square meter exhibition space in the basement of Cannes’ [...]

  • EFM 1st European Film Politics Seminar

    Berlin: 1st European Film Politics Seminar - Protecting Independent Film Production

    Leading industry reps gathered on the opening day of Berlin’s European Film Market for what is certain to be a continuing discussion about leveling the playing field for independent producers across Europe and demanding greater engagement in the sector from global players. The 1st European Film Politics Seminar aims to set the political agenda of [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein (C) arrives to New

    Harvey Weinstein Jury Note Stirs Frenzied Speculation on Verdict

    A note from the jury in the Harvey Weinstein trial on Friday afternoon set the media and legal worlds abuzz with speculation about the verdict. The note suggested that the jurors were deadlocked on the two most serious charges — predatory sexual assault — but had reached a unanimous consensus on three other counts, of [...]

  • Naim McNair Named Def Jam Senior

    Naim McNair Named Def Jam Senior VP of A&R

    In what may be the first signal of the next era of Def Jam Recordings, Naim McNair has been named senior VP of A&R at the company. The move comes just hours after it was confirmed that Paul Rosenberg, chairman and CEO of the label since January of 2018, is leaving his post at the [...]

  • Paul Rosenberg

    Paul Rosenberg Stepping Down as Head of Def Jam

    UPDATED: Paul Rosenberg, chairman and CEO of Def Jam Recordings since January of 2018, is leaving his post at the company, a source close to the situation confirms to Variety. Jeff Harleston, general counsel for Def Jam parent company Universal Music Group, will serve as interim chief until a new CEO is appointed; he will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content