The appeals court said US courts have jurisdiction to hear copyright infringement cases against foreign entities when those entities bring apps to the US market.
PASADENA, Calif. (CN) — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has made it a little easier for U.S. book, movie and music publishers to sue overseas intellectual property pirates if they target the market American.
The court on Thursday overturned a federal judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by a California producer and distributor of Vietnamese music against a Vietnam-based website and app owner for lack of personal jurisdiction.
In a unanimous decision, the Ninth Circuit panel said the judge had jurisdiction over the Vietnamese company, VNG Corp., because it intentionally sought music from California producer Lang Van Inc. for its Zing MP3 app and it had made the app available in the United States. , where it has been downloaded over 320,000 times.
“Although VNG claims that its primary audience is in Vietnam, VNG has released its English-language Zing MP3 in the United States,” said U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon, appointed by Bill Clinton of Nebraska federal court, sitting on the bench. panel by designation. “In the absence of publication by VNG, this application was not available in the United States. Making Zing MP3 accessible to those living in the US was helpful.
A lawyer for VNG did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the decision.
Cory Baskin, an attorney for Lang Van, said the company intended to prove at trial that VNG should be ordered to pay Lang Van millions of dollars in statutory damages and attorneys’ fees for its distribution. unauthorized access to thousands of copyrighted songs and albums in the United States. users based on VNG’s popular Zing MP3 music service and mobile apps.
“After more than seven years of litigation seeking to hold VNG liable for its targeted infringement of Lang Van’s copyrights over its priceless catalog of Vietnamese music produced in the tiny Saigon of Orange County, the Ninth Circuit has finally ruled that Lang Van had his day in federal court,” Baskin said.
The dismissal of Lang Van’s lawsuit for incompetence in 2019 caused an outcry from American intellectual property owners who have faced a hacking attack overseas and have limited means to seek redress.
“By closing the doors of American courthouses with its overly narrow interpretation of personal jurisdiction, the district court’s decision threatens to deal a severe blow to the ability of members of the book and publishing industry to do uphold intellectual property rights against some of the most brazen and prolific infringers of content created and distributed in the United States,” the Association of American Publishers said in an amicus brief in the appeal.
“The ability of copyright owners to enforce their rights in U.S. courts against foreign defendants who commit an infringement in the United States is critical to ending digital piracy,” the Motion Picture Association added in a brief. separate. “Too often, foreign jurisdictions fail to enforce intellectual property rights, leaving US courts as the only forum in which copyright owners can enforce their rights.”
Lang Van, based in Westminster, Calif., was one of the first Vietnamese production companies established in the United States, according to his lawsuit. It has the largest content library of any Vietnamese production company and owns the copyrights to over 12,000 songs.
VNG specifically sought Lang Van’s music for its Zing app, according to testimony from a former VNG employee cited in the Ninth Circuit’s decision. This employee testified that his job was to research and distribute through the Zing app songs “without regard to the permission of the content owners”. VNG has offered more than 2,800 Lang Van songs to the public via Zing MP3.
In his view, Bataillon wrote that the trial court erred in testing only whether VNG had a specific connection to California to determine whether the company could be sued there. The proper analysis, the panel said, was under a federal rule that provides jurisdiction over foreign defendants, who have extensive contact with the United States as a whole, “but whose contacts are so scattered among states that none of them would have jurisdiction.”
US Circuit Judge Jay Bybee, appointed by George W. Bush, and US Circuit Judge Mark Bennett, appointed by Donald Trump, agreed with Battalion.
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