Internet File-Sharing Litigation: Grokster and Beyond

Professor Diane Leenheer Zimmerman (New York University School of Law)

CA002, J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics, NUI Galway 15:00 :: 30th March 2009

An award-winning reporter for Newsweek and the New York Daily News, Diane Leenheer Zimmerman left journalism to pursue a career in the law. In 1977, after graduating from Columbia Law School and clerking for Judge Jack B. Weinstein in the Eastern District of New York, she joined the faculty at New York University School of Law, where she is currently the Samuel Tilden Professor of Law.

She specialises in intellectual property law. In the fall of 2001, she was invited to be the inaugural holder of the Distinguished Visiting Hosier Chair in Intellectual Property at De Paul College of Law in Chicago. In 2004, she delivered the 17th Annual Manges Lecture in intellectual property at Columbia University. Zimmerman is also a co-editor of Expanding the Boundaries of Intellectual Property: Innovation Policy for the Knowledge Society (Oxford University Press, 2001) and of a forthcoming volume, also with Oxford, to be entitled Working within the Boundaries of Intellectual Property. In spring 2006, she was awarded a STIRCD research fellowship by the London School of Economics to work on intellectual property issues.

She has also taught, lectured, and written extensively on issues of civil liberties, particularly women`s rights, and freedom of speech and conscience. Outside activities include chairing the First Amendment Rights Committee of the American Bar Association for five years. She has also chaired the Civil Rights Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and served on its Copyright, Professional Ethics, Communications and Media Law Committees. In the field of intellectual property, Zimmerman twice served on the executive committee of the Copyright Society`s board of trustees. She is a member of the editorial board of the Society`s Journal as well as that of the Communication Law and Policy Journal.

In the Grokster case (2005), the US Supreme Court held that if the distributor of a 'device' (including an Internet service) intends for its users to use it to infringe copyright, then the distributor is liable for that infringement. An understanding of this decision is central to making sense of the still-developing law on Internet file-sharing technology. Professor Zimmerman will deal with aspects of Grokster and what has followed.

The seminar will place Grokster within a context of increasing pressure to broaden secondary liability. It will examine the consequences of the decision from a technology perspective, in particular recent rulings of the American courts, and whether the Sony safe harbour for technology innovators is being eroded.

Mr. Rónán Kennedy, of the National University of Ireland, Galway Law School, will also outline recent relevant decisions from various European countries and discuss the potential consequences of the settlement by Eircom of litigation taken against it by the Irish music industry.

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