Copyright, Contract, or Complicated? AIME vs. UCLA Dismissed: Implications for Licensing

12 01 2012

For many months, the academic world has been keeping an eye on a potentially critical lawsuit brought by AIME (the Association for Media and Equipment) and Ambrose Video Publishing (Ambrose or AVP) against UCLA (or more specifically, the Regents and several named university officials in their administrative and individual capacity). The plaintiffs, AIME and AVP, sued UCLA because the institution was purchasing education dvds (some from AVP, others from AIME association members), circumventing the technological protections embedded in the dvds, and then streaming (transmitting) the entire movies in their online, password-protected course management system. . . .

On October 3, 2011, the trial judge dismissed the case in a brief (13 page) order. At last, academia thought, an answer, or at least some copyright guidance. Instead of being a copyright case, however, this case became a civil procedure and contract case with copyright mentioned primarily for its characteristic of being a federal law.

The bottom line is that the copyright questions were not reached in the actual holdings. In her order granting defendant’s motion to dismiss, the course never reached the copyright questions on their own merit. Any passing reference to copyright is at best hopeful dictum, which cannot be pulled out of context and mischaracterized as a “copyright win”. It certainly does not stand for the proposition that streaming entire copyrighted films within password protected course management systems is lawful.


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