Copyright Act Preempts All State Law Claims Based On Fraudulent DMCA Notice

Horse by Paul Jackson
Creative Commons License photo credit: dcbaok

I guess you could call this the law of the virtual horse.  In a new copyright preemption case, Amaretto Ranch Breedables, LLC v. Ozimals, Inc., the District Court for the Northern District of California held that any of the plaintiff’s state law claims premised upon the defendant’s alleged fraudulent DMCA takedown notices were preempted by the Copyright Act. 

The court characterized the case as “a copyright case between business competitors who sell virtual animals in the virtual world known as Second Life.”  Among the claims in the case was a straight-ahead Section 512(f) claim against the defendant based upon allegations of knowingly false takedown notices.  The court had previously dismissed that claim, however, on the ground that the allegedly infringing content had not actually been taken down by the noticed ISP.  In this round of motion practice, the court dismissed a supplemental state interference with contract claim, and any other of the plaintiff’s state law claims premised upon the allegedly false notices, due to copyright preemption.  The court distinguished one cited precedent where preemption was lacking, on the ground that in that case no DMCA notice had been sent.  The court went on to hold that, because Congress in Section 512 had declined to create liability in cases where a DMCA takedown notice was sent but the noticed content was not actually taken down (i.e., if a counter-notice is served by the website owner), any state law claims that would create liability under those circumstances is preempted.

Here is the court’s decision: