Stephen J. Wang


By the time the U.S. Supreme Court decided Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster Ltd. in 2005, Internet users around the globe who engaged in copyright infringement had already turned to newer, alternative forms of peer-to-peer filesharing. One recent development is the “seedbox,” a virtual private server rentable for use to download and upload (“seed”) files through the BitTorrent protocol. Because BitTorrent is widely used for both non-infringing and infringing purposes, the operators of seedboxes and other rentable BitTorrent-capable virtual private servers face the possibility of direct and secondary liability as did the defendants in Grokster and more recent cases like UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners LLC and Viacom Intern., Inc. v. YouTube, Inc. This Issue Brief examines whether the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) may shield virtual private server providers with customers running BitTorrent clients from potential liability for copyright infringement. It argues that general virtual private server providers are likely to find refuge in the safe harbor provisions as long as they conscientiously comply with the DMCA. In contrast, virtual private server providers specifically targeting BitTorrent users (“seedbox providers”) are much less likely to receive DMCA safe harbor protection.

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