UC Law SF Communications and Entertainment Journal


Lisa Veasman


Today's Web allows anyone to "influence the duplication and dissemination of information around the world." User-generated content and applications, where users can combine web applications and synchronize one website's information with another's, comprise much of Web 2.0's Internet. This note investigates whether generative web applications can "piggy back" on the initial websites' safe harbor protections, provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or whether such applications are liable for primary infringement themselves. Such web applications, like the Web 2.0 mashup ("mashup"), face potential liability because they display user-generated, infringing material, which users originally uploaded onto one of the previously existing websites used to create the mashup. First, this note describes the technology behind Web 2.0; discusses how Web 2.0 differs from the previous world of Web 1.0; and explains common Web 2.0 applications. It then sets forth the legal background of copyright liability, both for primary and secondary infringement, and examines whether web mashups are liable as direct infringers, contributory infingers, vicarious infringers, or as new Grokster inducement infringers. Finally, this note illustrates: (1) the competing values in copyright law; (2) how the original underlying purposes of secondary liability lack a connection to today's Internet; and (3) possible solutions to what liability a mashup may face...