The recent Department of Justice decision to indict Megaupload for copyright infringement and related offenses raises some very thorny questions from a criminal law perspective. A few preliminaries: I’m responsible for the musings below, but I thank Robert Weisberg of Stanford Law School for taking the time to talk through the issues and giving me pointers to some relevant cases. Also, an indictment contains unproven allegations, and the facts may well turn out to be different, or to imply different things in full context.
DMCA SAFE HARBOR: BELIEVE IT AND IT WILL BECOME REAL: As a matter of criminal law, the discussion of whether Megaupload did what it needed to do to qualify for the DMCA Safe Harbor misses the point. Did they register an agent? Did they have a repeat infringer policy? These are all interesting CIVIL questions. But from a criminal law perspective, the important question is did Defendants BELIEVE they were covered by the Safe Harbor? This is because criminal infringement requires a showing of willfulness. The view of the majority of Federal Courts is that “willfulness” means a desire to violate a known legal duty, not merely the will to make copies. Read more » about Megaupload: A Lot Less Guilty Than You Think