SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Korean music distributors cannot use American courts to prosecute piracy in foreign markets, a federal magistrate said.
DFSB Kollective Company, Nega Network, Jungle Entertainment, Woolim Entertainment, Afternoon Music Entertainment and Drug Records – all based in South Korea – filed copyright-infringement claims against Yousuf Bourne, an Australian, in the Northern District of California.
The record companies claimed that Bourne made their copyrighted music available for unauthorized download through two of his websites.
Bourne “is one of the biggest illegal uploaders (and free download link providers) of Korean music in the world,” according to the complaint. He allegedly provides Internet users with a map to locate and download copyrighted songs from “storage lockers” where he had previously uploaded the music.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley agreed Friday that the companies filed an acceptable proof of service with their complaint, she questioned whether the court has specific jurisdiction in this case.
“The 9th Circuit employs a three-prong test (‘Minimum Contact Test’) to determine whether a party has sufficient minimum contacts to be susceptible to specific jurisdiction,” Corley wrote.
That test says a defendant invokes the benefits or protection of the laws in a certain jurisdiction by directing his activities or consummating some transaction there. It also says a claim must arise from the defendant’s actions within the jurisdiction, and that the exercise of jurisdiction must be reasonable.
The Korean music distributors have claimed that Bourne infringed their copyrights, but Corley disagreed with their broad view of personal jurisdiction.
“There is nothing in the record … to show that defendant’s commercial activities targeted California,” she wrote. “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.”
Despite precedent in the Northern District of California for asserting jurisdiction through a defendant’s use of California-based social networking websites like Facebook, Corley said such accounts are insufficient to show that Bourne targeted a California audience.
“To adopt plaintiffs’ reasoning would render the ‘expressly aimed’ prong … essentially meaningless as it has become ubiquitous for businesses – large and small – to maintain Facebook or Twitter accounts for marketing purposes and would subject millions of persons around the globe to personal jurisdiction in California,” Coley wrote.
“In a copyright case, it is usually the plaintiff – who owns the copyright and thus has standing to bring the lawsuit – who is claiming harm,” she added. “Since plaintiffs do not allege how they as corporations based in Korea suffered any harm in California, plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the third prong [of the test].”
Because Bourne has not appeared, and the court independently raised the issue of jurisdiction, the court agreed to delay a final report and recommendation.
The Korean companies have until July 3 to file a brief explaining why the case record sufficiently establishes Bourne’s personal jurisdiction.