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MySpace succumbs to The Buttock

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The Buttock has successfully sued MySpace for copyright infringement. Late last month, a French High Court ruled that the popular U.S.-based social networking site acts as a publisher as well as a hosting service, making it liable for unauthorized broadcasts of films from the French comedian known as "Lafesse." Yes, that's how it translates.

The Court ordered the site to remove the unauthorized videos or pay 1,000 euros for each day they remain online. According to the ruling, MySpace is also required to pay an additional 61,000 euros for "commercial prejudice," infringement of "moral" and "personal" rights, and plaintiff legal fees. MySpace, which did not send a lawyer to the court hearing, still has an opportunity to appeal.

Jeans-Yves Lafesse is a kind of Gallic Sasha Baron Cohen, well known for filming none-too-serious interviews with people on the street. One famous bit has him approaching a man doing push-ups at Cannes, saying "You can stop now. She's left." Lafesse recently sued MySpace after several users posted copies of his films to the site, and on June 22, the President of the High Court of the First Instance issued a "summary order" that held the site liable for broadcasting the videos.

According to Brad Spitz, a French copyright lawyer and lecturer at the University of Paris whose recent blog post about the case was picked up by French tech law site Juriscom.net, France and other European Union countries have laws similar to the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Typically, these laws protect online hosting services from this sort of suit. But in this case, the court has ruled that MySpace is acting as a publisher because it requires users to post content via very specific online "structures," or frames, and that it serves up advertisements each time a video is viewed.

"Companies that host content usually aren't held liable [in France]," Spitz told The Register. "But this court has said that though MySpace does offer hosting services, it can also be considered a publisher because it does publicity, it offers these structures that users have to use, and it makes money from ads."

The court ruling is part of summary proceeding, a hearing that deals with "urgent matters," says Spitz. With such a proceeding, the president of the court hears arguments from both parties, but MySpace was a no-show. The company must appeal within 15 days of the ruling, according to Spitz.

There is a precedent for the case. In June of 2006, the Court of Appeal of Paris ruled that a hosting provider called Tiscali Media could be considered a publisher because it sold advertisements on user-generated web pages. As in The Buttock case, Tiscali was held liable for copyright infringement.

Spitz believes that Lafesse may have made it even more difficult for hosting providers to avoid this sort of suit. Meanwhile, Le Figaro reports that The Buttock plans to sue Google and video-sharing site Dailymotion as well.®

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