The Multimedia Messaging Service is not an illicit file-sharing protocol, a federal appeals court ruled, setting aside Monday a complaint from an MMS-greeting-card supplier that claimed the nation’s largest telecoms helped consumers infringe via MMS texting.
Luvdarts, which produces greeting-card style messages with text, graphics, video and musical materials that it creates and licenses, claimed Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and Verizon should have prevented the illegal distribution of its proprietary text messages.
“Luvdarts fails to cite any authority to support this proposition, which runs contrary to our precedent,” a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously.
The Los Angeles company’s policy only allowed their messages to be sent once, meaning it was a copyright violation for phone users to distribute them multiple times. The complaint claimed the carriers profited because they earned MMS fees while failing to implement a system to stop the infringement.
The appeals court said the carriers had no effective means to even police MMS messages. “Luvdart’s failure to allege that the carriers have at least something like a capacity to supervise is fatal to a claim of vicarious liability,” the court ruled.
In its 2010 federal lawsuit, the Los Angeles company alleged MMS amounted to an illicit peer-to-peer file-sharing network.
“Defendants, and each of them, enabled the transfer/transmission and publication of this copyright protected content via mobile devices by building and implementing a peer-to-peer file-sharing network with the dedicated purpose of enabling end users to share multimedia files via this MMS network,” the complaint said. “Defendants, and each of them, profited from these activities by charging the transmitter and receivers of this content a fee or flat rate for the transfer/transmission that resulted in the publication of said content.”
Techdirt commented on the absurdity of the case when it was filed three years ago:
This makes no sense. It’s like saying that any email provider is infringing on the copyrights of email writers by letting recipients forward emails. You know those chain emails that get passed around? Imagine if one of the authors of those then sued all the big email providers. It would get laughed out of court. Hopefully, this lawsuit gets laughed out of court too.
Done and done.