A Complaint Beats A Ripoff

You’d think that with how often the folks behind RipOffReport.com have been on the receiving end of lawsuits, they’d prepare their own case a little better.

RipOffReport.com is a Web site where consumers can post complaints about companies who well, ripped them off. Under Ripoff’s terms of service, users automatically grant it an exclusive license to the reviews. Based on this right, Ripoff sued various parties behind competitor ComplaintsBoard.com for encouraging and permitting their users to repost Ripoff’s exclusive content on their site.

ComplaintsBoard claimed protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects service providers from copyright liability if (1) they don’t know the hosted material is infringing, (2) they aren’t aware of circumstances that would make the infringing activity apparent, and (3) upon learning of the infringement, they act quickly to remove the copyrighted content.

But Ripoff claimed the ComplaintsBoard fell outside of DMCA protection because, rather than passively receiving content, it actively encouraged and permitted users to post the copyrighted material. Even though ComplaintsBoard didn’t directly copy and paste the material, Ripoff argued it was liable for vicarious and/or contributory infringement.

To establish contributory infringement, Ripoff needed to show that the defendants knew of the users’ infringing activity and induced, caused, or materially contributed to it. But, Ripoff produced no evidence to allow the court to make this inference.

To establish vicarious liability, Ripoff needed to show that the defendants could supervise the activity and had a direct financial interest in it. But once again, even if ComplaintsBoard had a financial interest in diverting traffic to its Web site, Ripoff failed to show that it had the ability to supervise the infringing activity.

For the time being, the court dismissed the copyright infringement claims but granted Ripoff the chance to amend its complaint to add some supporting facts.

Couldn’t hurt for the RipOff Report to become a little more attuned to facts, not just inferences.