So when do nifty ads for bargains or eye-appealing graphics become potential reasons for legal pause for those who run commercial websites? Perhaps when those operators possibly are pirates of others’ content. Or so a federal magistrate in San Francisco has found. She has ruled on a complaint filed by a Korean company that the American arm of the law can reach over the Pacific to exercise jurisdiction over site operators in Indonesia and Vietnam — and the commercial tools the webheads employed proved to be their courtroom undoing.
DFSB Kollective, a Korean “boutique creative agency,” took to U.S. courts to sue for copyright infringment entrepreneurs Bing Yang, of Vietnam, and Indrawati Yang, of Indonesia, Entertainment Law Digest reports. The Korean firm asserted that the two made its music available for download on several of their blog sites. Though users could not download music directly off their sites, defendants would upload music onto a third-party site, then direct audiences to download the content from there, using DFSB album artwork, the plaintiffs complained. Neither defendant answered the suit, nor did either travel from Asia to be in court for a San Francisco hearing. So the plaintiffs sought a default judgment
The last time DFSB attempted to prosecute online music pirates in a foreign jurisdiction, the case was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, with a federal magistrate then deciding: “Plaintiffs do not allege that any of the advertisements on defendant’s websites targeted Californians. … In sum, there is nothing that suggests [defendant was] attempting to commercially exploit the California market.”
The Koreans latest case differed because here, a different magistrate noted, “one of Indrawati Yang’s websites showed advertisements for Groupon Los Angeles and AAA of Southern California. In addition, plaintiffs have provided evidence that the United States is their largest market for sales and that California accounts for a large share of their business in the United States, in part because the music appeals to the large population of residents of Korean descent in the state.”
A forum is jurisdictionally sufficient if defendants likely knew they would cause harm within a state. Defendants, whose ads and product targeted the Golden State, here could foresee clearly that DFSB would suffer economic loss because of damage to potential California sales if its product were provided by others for free. Besides entering the default judgment against the defendants, the court filed an order forbidding them from posting or facilitating illegal downloading of copyrighted DFSB content.