Monday, May 05, 2008

recent reading: California's true name law

Excerpts (footnotes omitted) from Brian McFarlin, From the Fringes of Copyright Law: Examining California's “True Name and Address” Internet Piracy Statute, 35 Hastings Const. L.Q. 547 (2008):

In 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law California Penal Code section 653aa, which became effective on January 1, 2005. Under the statute, anyone located in California who, “knowing that a particular recording or audiovisual work is commercial, knowingly electronically disseminates all or substantially all of that commercial recording or audiovisual work to more than 10 other people without disclosing his or her email address, and the title of the recording or audiovisual work” is guilty of a misdemeanor.

. . . . ISPs that enable their users to share files are also exempt if they keep their email address or other means of electronic notification on their website. It is noteworthy, though, that there is no specific exception for fair use of the copyrighted material as there is under federal copyright law.

A stated purpose of the statute was to “allow state law enforcement authorities to pursue copyright violations, since the vast majority of individuals who are using P2P networks to violate copyright law are unlikely to comply with the bill's true name and address requirement.” In short, legislators were attempting to build a trap for the unwary designed to allow the state to essentially enforce copyright law in state courts.

I’d never heard of this law, but it would make a great exam question.

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