This is a publication by The Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, which explains and discusses the two theories of indirect copyright infringement liability: Contributory infringement and Vicarious infringement at the same time offering an economic perspective. Contributory infringement is when a company that produces a product or service is liable for indirect infringement as a result of a third party user committing infringement by using the product or service. Vicarious infringement has to do with an employee committing infringement and the employer is then liable for that infringement because he had "knowledge" of that infringement. Throughout the article, the authors make use of two examples illustrating two extremes: a flea market example, in which a property owner provides a service to individual sellers, and some of these seller sell copyrighted material; and a photocopier example, in which the use of the copier can have both infringing uses and legitimate ones. The article also discusses several important issues surrounding these two theories, such as the Sony v. Universal case, the napster case, and the DMCA law. It provides analysis on why the court rejected Napster's claim that it was "only a service like the VCR." Essentially, the artical says that Napster could have prevented the copyright infringement without harming the legitimate uses. Ultimately the article makes the conclusion that "every mechanism for rewarding authors inevitably introduces some form of inefficiency, and thus the only way to determine the proper scope for indirect liability is to weigh its costs and benefits against the costs and benefits associated with other plausible mechanisms for rewarding authors."
This is a very valuable source for my research paper for a number of reasons. Many site operators such as Gary Fung (owner of www.IsoHunt.com), claim that they are only providing a "service" like the "sony VCR". The article provides valuable analysis of the napster case, specifically that the court said that even though napster provided a "service" if it had "knowledge" and "could effectively prevent" copyright infringement it is liable for indirect infringement. I plan to utilize this point in favor of my argument that government, specifically the judicial branch, can shut down sites like isoHunt if it proves them to be indirectly liable for copyright infringement. The artical is also important for my research paper because it raises issues such as that "the costs in terms of unavoidable interference with legitimate products might be too high, and society would therefore be better off forcing copyright holders to rely on other mechanisms."