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RIAA argues that Spinrilla doesn’t have safe harbour protection 

By | Published on Tuesday 1 August 2017


The US record industry is trying to bulldoze Spinrilla’s safe harbour. Can you bulldoze a harbour? That’s the question, isn’t it? The bulldozer would get wet I suppose. Is that a deal breaker? I tried Googling “can you bulldoze a harbour?” because, you know, Google is meant to answer everything. No answer my friend. Bring back Ask Jeeves I say.

Anyway, Spinrilla is the hop hop mixtape sharing app that was sued for copyright infringement by the record companies back in February. The mixtape set-up quickly hit back the following month arguing that [a] it employed the Audible Magic rights management technology on its platform that the record industry had requested it use; [b] the labels now suing it had in the past lobbied for their music to be promoted on the service; and [c] safe harbour, safe harbour, safe harbour, safe harbour.

The safe harbour, of course, is the much talked about (in music circles) bit of law that says that internet companies can’t be held liable if their users use their servers or networks to infringe copyright, providing said internet companies have a system in place via which rights owners can remove infringing content. Spinrilla argues it is compliant with the safe harbour that is set out in America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

But not so, says the Recording Industry Association Of America in a new filing with the court. The record industry trade group reckons it’s found at least two technicalities which mean that Spinrilla does not qualify for safe harbour protection. So bring on the bulldozers.

“Defendants have not registered a designated DMCA agent with the Copyright Office and have not adopted, communicated, or reasonably implemented a policy that prevents repeat infringement”, says the RIAA in its new filing. And both of those things are necessary to employ the safe harbour. “Either of these undisputed facts alone renders defendants ineligible for the protections of the DMCA”, the labels group adds.

Honing in on the repeat infringer issue, something that was at the heart of the last big safe harbour case in the US when BMG successfully sued internet service provider Cox Communications, the RIAA’s court filing goes on: “[One user] uploaded a new mixtape each week for over 80 consecutive weeks, each containing sound recordings that the RIAA identified to Spinrilla as infringing, including recordings by such well-known major label artists as Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Missy Elliott, Common and Ludacris”.

Did Spinrilla do anything about that user and their repeat infringing. No, it did not, the RIAA reckons. Meaning the defendant doesn’t have safe harbour protection, despite that being the core of their defence. It is now to be seen whether the court concurs.