Why Are Korean Copyright Owners Suing an Australian Infringer in San Jose, California?

10 01 2012

By Eric Goldman

DFSB Kollective Co., Ltd. v. Tran, 2011 WL 6730678 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 21, 2011)

In light of SOPA, I am paying closer attention to transborder copyright and trademark enforcement actions. After all, SOPA is designed to redress foreign rogue websites, so the results being obtained in court today are highly relevant to the policy debates. As we’ve previously shown, a lot of SOPA remedies are already being awarded by judges–for better or worse (mostly the latter)–and some of those rulings are raising some of the same due process concerns we have about SOPA.

Today’s ruling baffles me, and I’m hoping you’ll help me understand the case and the issues. The plaintiffs own copyrights in Korean pop music and are based in Seoul. The defendant is Kenny Tran, who runs ihoneyjoo.com and ihoneydew.com (both offline–more on that later) and is peripatetic on social media. Tran allegedly posted infringing music files and album covers to cyberlockers and other sites and then linked to the uploads from his social media accounts. The plaintiffs claim Tran is “one of the biggest illegal uploaders (and free download link providers) of Korean music in the world” and his site generated more traffic than the top 3 legitimate Korean music sites combined. (If true, this crucial information about consumer behavior made me think of this meme). Tran allegedly profited from his actions by showing ads and soliciting PayPal donations.

The plaintiffs claim they repeatedly sent takedown notices to Tran’s service providers, but Tran allegedly evaded enforcement by opening new accounts or switching vendors. So they sued Tran in San Jose, California, where they happened to draw Judge Koh, the only federal district court judge of Korean descent. They claim to have served him in Australia, but Tran hasn’t responded to the lawsuit at all.


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