Robert Hendrickson v. Amazon.com, Inc.

Hendrickson v. Amazon.com, Inc. 298 F.Supp.2d 914 No. CV 02-08443 TJH. United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division. December 8, 2003.

Case Details

Robert Hendrickson owns the copyright for the movie Manson, which has not been released and has not been authorized for release on DVD by Hendrickson. Therefore, Hendrickson claims that any DVD copy of Manson sold are subject to copyright infringement charges.

On January 28th, 2002, Hendrickson sent a letter to Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”), notifying it that all copies of Manson on DVD infringed upon his copyright. On October 21st, 2002, Hendrickson noticed that a Manson DVD was recently posted for sale by Demetrious Papaioannou on Amazon.com. Two days later, Hendrickson purchased a copy of the DVD from Papaioannou, using Amazon’s website credit services to facilitate the transaction.

Following the sale, Hendrickson filed this action for direct copyright infringement against Amazon and Papaioannou.

Hendrickson also claimed vicarious copyright infringement claim against Amazon.

Plaintiff’s Argument

Hendrickson claims both direct copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement against both Amazon.com and Papaioannou regarding his copyright ownership for Manson. Amazon moved for summary judgment, asserting that it is not liable for direct copyright infringement.

Amazon’s Argument

  • Amazon states that it is protected against vicarious infringement by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act
  • For direct copyright claim, Amazon only needed to show that there is no evidence supporting Hendrickson’s allegation that it sold the Manson DVD
  • Hendrickson’s claim that the copyright infringement was committed by Amazon.com itself is only based on the sales documents between seller and buyer
  • Hendrickson had no sustainable evidence that Amazon was not merely an internet service provider, but actually the direct seller of the infringing item. Amazon meets the DMCA’s definition of an ISP.
  • The Court ruled that Papaioannou, not Amazon, was the actual seller.

Summary and Conclusion

Amazon needed to provide evidence that as an ISP, they have no control over the infringing activity. Since Amazon only offers the forum for an independent seller to list the Manson DVD, Amazon.com itself was not involved in or responsible for the transaction. This mechanism shows that Amazon.com did not have control over the sale in question.

Due to these facts, summary judgment in favor of Amazon regarding the copyright infringement claim is appropriate and granted by the court.