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Spinrilla hits back in ongoing takedown notice dispute with the RIAA

By | Published on Thursday 7 May 2020


Mixtape sharing platform Spinrilla has hit back at the Recording Industry Association Of America in its ongoing legal battle over how the record industry issues takedown notices under US copyright law. The RIAA’s dislike of that takedown process is well known, Spinrilla says, but “their dislike of the process doesn’t mean they can ignore or abuse” it.

The takedown process at the heart of this dispute is part of the often controversial copyright safe harbour, of course. Under the safe harbour principle, internet companies cannot be held liable if and when their users upload copyright infringing material to their networks and servers, providing those companies have a system in place via which copyright owners can have that infringing content removed.

In the US, the safe harbour and accompanying takedown system is outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. With regards takedown notices, that act includes obligations for both the copyright owner issuing the takedown and the internet company receiving it. Spinrilla argues that the RIAA and its member labels have not been fulfilling their obligations when sending over takedown requests to the mixtape platform.

In its lawsuit earlier this year, Spinrilla stated: “[The RIAA] is sending DMCA takedown notices some of which materially misrepresent that audio files uploaded by certain Spinrilla’s users infringe sound recordings owned by RIAA’s members. These unfounded takedown notices, in turn, cause Spinrilla damage to its business in at least injury to its goodwill and reputation”.

The record industry trade group formally responded to that lawsuit by filing a motion for dismissal. It claims that Spinrilla’s litigation is just a distraction tactic. Because three years ago the RIAA sued Spinrilla for copyright infringement and that case continues to go through the motions. And in a court session last year, the RIAA says, a judge indicated that the safe harbour defence Spinrilla is employing probably won’t hold up.

In its motion for dismissal the RIAA wrote: “Spinrilla’s new lawsuit is an obvious and baseless attempt to draw the court’s attention away from the views expressed by the court at that hearing and from the pending motions for summary judgment in the original case, which demonstrate Spinrilla’s persistent and flagrant pattern of facilitating and encouraging massive copyright infringement”.

However, the allegation that the Spinrilla takedown notice lawsuit is a distraction tactic is not enough to get that action dismissed by the judge.

In that regard the RIAA argues that the lawsuit fails to “state a claim” because it is ultimately based around a single audio file included in an RIAA takedown notice; the allegation that the RIAA knew its members didn’t control the rights in that file “is based on nothing more than pure conjecture”; and Spinrilla hasn’t shown that it even removed that single file or suffered any damage as a result of being asked to.

In a new legal filing Spinrilla disputes all that. Much of said legal filing goes into the technicalities of what constitutes “stating a claim” and what a plaintiff must do in order to defeat a motion to dismiss. In the process Spinrilla repeats many of its allegations from the original lawsuit, concluding – of course – that a claim has been stated and that its original legal arguments are strong enough to stop dismissal.

Along the way Spinrilla states that the RIAA’s anti-infringement activities are “overzealous, as service providers – such as Spinrilla – are being asked … to remove content that is not infringing. [The RIAA] and its members’ dislike of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s takedown notice process is notorious. They claim the process is unfair because it forces them into a never-ending game of whack-a-mole”.

“But their dislike of the process”, it adds, “doesn’t mean they can ignore or abuse the process. Each of … the takedown notices must still be prepared and sent in good faith”.

The new legal filing concludes be requesting that the court deny the RIAA’s motion to dismiss, and also the trade group’s alternative request for a summary judgement in its favour. Or, if the judge decides to go the summary judgement route, that Spinrilla be given more time to undertake discovery and expand on its claims before any such summary judgement is made. That would include, Spinrilla says, a deposition of RIAA exec Traci Crippen.

We now await to see how the judge responds.