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Credit Card Companies Cannot Be Held Liable for Customer Infringements

PRESS RELEASE
August 12, 2004

California - In a ruling the Electronic Frontier Foundation hailed as a step forward, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ruled today that Visa and several other credit card companies would not be held liable for the copyright infringements of its business customers.

The case was brought by Perfect 10, an adult website that accused several credit card companies of copyright infringement because they were providing financial transaction services for sites containing allegedly infringing images. Rather than suing the alleged infringers, Perfect 10 sued their financial service providers for contributory infringement. Judge James Ware dismissed the case, citing the companies' inability to control the content of the sites with which they do business.

"This ruling suggests that courts aren't eager to extend contributory and vicarious copyright infringement to reach people only remotely connected to alleged infringers," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Of course, if Senator Hatch passes his Inducement to Infringe Copyright Act, that throws everything into uncertainty again."

EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz added, "Without the protections acknowledged by this ruling, any copyright owner could drag dozens of general service companies into court -- from the gas company to the electric company. This decision imposes important limits on overzealous copyright owners."

Perfect 10 brought a similar suit against financial transactions companies and age verification services in the Central District of California earlier this year. Most of the claims in that suit were dismissed, as well.

Contacts:

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
fred@eff.org

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