Asked in Copyright for California

Q: I want to make an Online storage service,but is it legally safe for me if the user uploaded a music/video file?

I want to create an online storage but if the user upload copyright material such as Music/Video file,will it put me in risk as developer?

an other question:if i offered a facility that the user could share files but no publicly,such as dropbox you can just share with several contacts,will it also but me in risk?

the last question:I offer the user the ability to share Music files from his computer to his phone via my server what are the legal an illegal cases in this issue?

is there is any illegal thing in this idea?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Ansel Jay Halliburton
Ansel Jay Halliburton
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: It depends! This is a minefield, so tread very carefully, and preferably with guidance from a good internet and copyright lawyer. Here are some of the laws and issues to consider:

If the service actively encourages users to upload copyrighted music and videos, then it could be found liable for inducing or contributing to the users' copyright infringement. This is what killed Napster and other file-sharing services. If there's no such encouragement, then that is less likely—but still don't rule it out. It's very fact-specific.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides a safe harbor for online service provides, but only if they comply with the notice-and-takedown framework it provides. This is why YouTube stays alive: when copyright owners notify them of infringing videos, they take them down right away. It's very challenging to do this at scale.

Beyond copyright issues, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides immunity to online service providers. This would protect against claims like defamation in content uploaded by users.

Whether the sharing is public or private makes little difference, except perhaps for the number of copies and therefore the magnitude of potential infringement.

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