CBS Interactive Again Accused of Contributing to Piracy

Alki David Headshot - P 2011
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Alki David Headshot - P 2011

Eccentric billionaire Alki David is back, as he promised, with a new lawsuit that alleges CBS Interactive aided in the massive infringement of movies and music by helping legitimize and popularize file-sharing tools such as Lime Wire on its CNET subsidiary.

David, whose company FilmOn is the subject of ongoing litigation brought by major broadcast networks, first filed the class action in May and then dropped it in July, telling the court he was in the process of filing a much bigger amended lawsuit.

The complaint has indeed been amended. Is it bigger? 

Some of the named plaintiffs are different. Instead of members of 2 Live Crew and Ying Yang Twins, there's 2 Live's Luther Campbell, Sugar Hill Music, and various other hip hop and R&B artists.

The plaintiff's lawyer is different. Instead of Michael Zeller, an IP star who has represented Google, eBay, and Disney, the new counsel is Jaime Marquart at Baker Marquart.

But overall, it's pretty similar.

The plaintiffs are still claiming that CBS demonstrated massive hypocrisy by decrying copyright at the same time as running a business that profited by pointing users to P2P software. The lawsuit still looks to hang the defendant on the same theories of secondary and vicarious liability that the defendant helped establish in previous legal actions against file-sharing technology companies. And the lawsuit still largely eschews any specific identification of infringed material.

David takes the opportunity to press his main point again:

"The underlying irony in this case is that, despite its endemic inducement of the infringement of plaintiffs' songs, defendants' parent, CBS, does not hesitate to cast itself as a defender of intellectual property rights when it concerns its own financial interests. For example, defendants' parent company, CBS, routinely harasses individuals and small websites which post small portions of its own programming with 'cease and desist' letters threatening crushing litigation. When that does not work, it does not hesitate to sue." 

CBS didn't immediately respond to request for comment, but in reaction to the initial lawsuit, the company said the claims were a  "desperate attempt to distract copyright holders like us from continuing our rightful claims" and that the plaintiffs wouldn't prevail.

Here's a copy of the new complaint.


Twitter: @eriqgardner