Adult publisher Perfect 10 has developed a reputation for being a serial copyright litigant.
Over the years the company targeted a number of high-profile defendants, including Google, Amazon, Mastercard, and Visa. Around two dozen of Perfect 10’s lawsuits ended in cash settlements and defaults, in the publisher’s favor.
Perhaps buoyed by this success, the company went after Usenet provider Giganews but instead of a company willing to roll over, Perfect 10 found a highly defensive and indeed aggressive opponent. The initial copyright case filed by Perfect 10 alleged that Giganews effectively sold access to Perfect 10 content but things went badly for the publisher.
In November 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that Giganews was not liable for the infringing activities of its users. Perfect 10 was ordered to pay Giganews $5.6m in attorney’s fees and costs. Perfect 10 lost again at the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
As a result of these failed actions, Giganews is owned millions by Perfect 10 but the publisher has thus far refused to pay up. That resulted in Giganews filing a $20m lawsuit, accusing Perfect 10 and President Dr. Norman Zada of fraud.
With all this litigation boiling around in the background and Perfect 10 already bankrupt as a result, one might think the story would be near to a conclusion. That doesn’t seem to be the case. In a fresh announcement, Perfect 10 says it has now appealed its case to the US Supreme Court.
“This is an extraordinarily important case, because for the first time, an appellate court has allowed defendants to copy and sell movies, songs, images, and other copyrighted works, without permission or payment to copyright holders,” says Zada.
“In this particular case, evidence was presented that defendants were copying and selling access to approximately 25,000 terabytes of unlicensed movies, songs, images, software, and magazines.”
Referencing an Amicus brief previously filed by the RIAA which described Giganews as “blatant copyright pirates,” Perfect 10 accuses the Ninth Circuit of allowing Giganews to copy and sell trillions of dollars of other people’s intellectual property “because their copying and selling was done in an automated fashion using a computer.”
Noting that “everything is done via computer” these days and with an undertone that the ruling encouraged others to infringe, Perfect 10 says there are now 88 companies similar to Giganews which rely on the automation defence to commit infringement – even involving content owned by people in the US Government.
“These exploiters of other people’s property are fearless. They are copying and selling access to pirated versions of pretty much every movie ever made, including films co-produced by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin,” Nada says.
“You would think the justice department would do something to protect the viability of this nation’s movie and recording studios, as unfettered piracy harms jobs and tax revenues, but they have done nothing.”
But Zada doesn’t stop at blaming Usenet services, the California District Court, the Ninth Circuit, and the United States Department of Justice for his problems – Congress is to blame too.
“Copyright holders have nowhere to turn other than the Federal courts, whose judges are ridiculously overworked. For years, Congress has failed to provide the Federal courts with adequate funding. As a result, judges can make mistakes,” he adds.
For Zada, those mistakes are particularly notable, particularly since at least one other super high-profile company was shut down in the most aggressive manner possible for allegedly being involved in less piracy than Giganews.
Pointing to the now-infamous Megaupload case, Perfect 10 notes that the Department of Justice completely shut that operation down, filing charges of criminal copyright infringement against Kim Dotcom and seizing $175 million “for selling access to movies and songs which they did not own.”
“Perfect 10 provided evidence that [Giganews] offered more than 200 times as many full length movies as did megaupload.com. But our evidence fell on deaf ears,” Zada complains.
In contrast, Perfect 10 adds, a California District Court found that Giganews had done nothing wrong, allowed it to continue copying and selling access to Perfect 10’s content, and awarded the Usenet provider $5.63m in attorneys fees.
“Prior to this case, no court had ever awarded fees to an alleged infringer, unless they were found to either own the copyrights at issue, or established a fair use defence. Neither was the case here,” Zada adds.
While Perfect 10 has filed a petition with the Supreme Court, the odds of being granted a review are particularly small. Only time will tell how this case will end, but it seems unlikely that the adult publisher will enjoy a happy ending, one in which it doesn’t have to pay Giganews millions of dollars in attorney’s fees.