Metadata Offers Crucial Evidence in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

14 Mar 2014

Gardner v. Cafepress Inc., Case No. 3:13-cv-1108-GPC-JMA(S.D.Cal. February 26, 2014) is a copyright infringement case. Before the court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment or, in the alternative, a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Plaintiff alleged Defendant uploaded a copyright image of Plaintiff’s for its own commercial use. In opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff presented evidence that the metadata of the image’s copyright was deleted. Defendant responded that their conduct falls under the “safe harbor” defense to relieve it of liability.

The defense turns, in part, on whether the Defendant interfered with the “standard technical measures” of the copyright material. Plaintiff argued that the metadata of the copyright material proves that it was unlawfully deleted when it was uploaded to Defendant’s website.

Defendant responded that when metadata was deleted, that was simply part of the automated process for uploading images. Further, Defendant argued that Plaintiff failed to offer evidence that using metadata as a copyright protection tool was “developed pursuant to a broad consensus of copyright owners and service providers in an open, fair, voluntary, multi-industry standards process.”

The court agreed with Plaintiff that a material issue of fact was in dispute as to whether the deletion of metadata constituted interference with “standard technical measures,” as required to be an exception under the safe harbor defense. The court found metadata to be an “easy and economical way” to protect an image with a copyright. The court also noted that Defendant’s question regarding whether metadata as a possible copyright protection tool was used by a broad consensus of users was also a potential sub-issue.

Although the court denied the Motion for Summary Judgment as a material issue of fact was disputed, the court did grant the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of Plaintiff’s entitlement to statutory damages and attorney fees. Therefore, the court denied Plaintiff’s request for additional discovery under Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 56 (d).

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts