PENGUIN GROUP v. AMERICAN No. 7.
16 N.Y.3d 295 (2011)
PENGUIN GROUP (USA) INC., Appellant, v. AMERICAN BUDDHA, Respondent.
Court of Appeals of New York.
Decided March 24, 2011.
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, New York City ( of counsel), for American Association of Publishers and others, amici curiae. Elizabeth A. Mc-Namara,
Chief Judge LIPPMAN and Judges CIPARICK, READ, SMITH, PIGOTT and JONES concur.
OPINION OF THE COURT
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has asked us a question regarding the scope of long-arm
Plaintiff Penguin Group (USA) is a large trade book publisher with its principal place of business in New York City. Defendant American Buddha is an Oregon not-for-profit corporation whose principal place of business is in Arizona. It operates two Web sites—the American Buddha Online Library and the Ralph Nader Library
Penguin commenced this copyright infringement action against American Buddha in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that American Buddha infringed on Penguin's copyrights to four books: "Oil!" by Upton Sinclair; "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis; "The Golden Ass" by Apuleius, as translated by E.J. Kenney; and "On the Nature of the Universe" by Lucretius, as translated by R.E. Latham. The complaint alleges that American Buddha published complete copies of these works on its two Web sites, making them available free of charge to its 50,000 members and anyone with an Internet connection. The electronic copying and uploading of the works was apparently undertaken in Oregon or Arizona.
American Buddha's Web sites assure its users that its uploading of these works and the users' downloading of them do not constitute copyright infringement because they are protected under sections 107 and 108 of the Copyright Act (17 USC § 101 et seq.), which govern fair use and reproduction by libraries and archives. Penguin disputes that any exception to the Copyright Act applies to American Buddha's activities.
American Buddha moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that its ties to New York were too insubstantial. In response, Penguin asserted that it had secured long-arm jurisdiction over American Buddha by virtue of CPLR 302 (a) (3) (ii), which provides jurisdiction over nondomiciliaries who commit tortious acts outside the state that result in injuries within New York. American Buddha countered that CPLR 302 (a) (3) (ii) was inapplicable because Penguin did not suffer an in-state injury.
The District Court granted American Buddha's motion and dismissed the complaint, holding that Penguin was injured in
Recognizing a split of authority in the New York district courts regarding the application of CPLR 302 (a) (3) (ii) to copyright infringement cases against out-of-state defendants, the Second Circuit certified the following question to us:
The Second Circuit invited this Court to "alter this question as it should deem appropriate" (id. at 42) and noted that, "in the context of certifying a question to the New York Court of Appeals[,]. . . the allegation of distribution over the Internet may be a factor in the Court's interpretation of the statute in question" (id. at 39).
Because the Internet plays a significant role in this case, we narrow and reformulate the certified question to read:
In answer to this reformulated question and under the circumstances of this case, we conclude it is the location of the copyright holder.
CPLR 302 (a) (3) (ii) allows a court in New York to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant when the nondomiciliary:
Consequently, a plaintiff relying on this statute must show that (1) the defendant committed a tortious act outside New York; (2) the cause of action arose from that act; (3) the tortious act caused an injury to a person or property in New York; (4) the defendant expected or should reasonably have expected the act to have consequences in New York; and (5) the defendant derived substantial revenue from interstate or international commerce (see LaMarca v Pak-Mor Mfg. Co.,
Penguin, supported by amici curiae American Association of Publishers and other national publishing organizations, argues that a New York-based copyright holder sustains an injury in New York for purposes of CPLR 302 (a) (3) (ii) when its copyright is infringed through the out-of-state uploading of its protected work onto the Internet. American Buddha and amicus curiae Public Citizen respond that this case is controlled by Fantis Foods v Standard Importing Co. (
In a different commercial tort context, in Sybron Corp. v Wetzel (
Fantis Foods and Sybron both cited favorably to American Eutectic Welding Alloys Sales Co. v Dytron Alloys Corp. (
The injury in the case before us is more difficult to identify and quantify because the alleged infringement involves the Internet, which by its nature is intangible and ubiquitous. But the convergence of two factors persuades us that a New York copyright owner alleging infringement sustains an in-state injury pursuant to CPLR 302 (a) (3) (ii) when its printed literary work is uploaded without permission onto the Internet for public access. First, it is clear that the Internet itself plays an important role in the jurisdictional analysis in the specific context of this case. It is widely recognized that "the digital environment poses a unique threat to the rights of copyright owners" and that "digital technology enables pirates to reproduce and distribute perfect copies of works—at virtually no cost at all to the pirate" (House Commerce Comm Rep on Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, HR Rep 551, 105th Cong, 2d Sess, at 25, reprinted in 10 Nimmer on Copyright, Appendix 53, at 37). Indeed, the rate of e-book piracy has risen in conjunction with the increasing popularity of electronic book devices (see Trivedi, Writing the Wrong: What the E-Book Industry Can Learn from Digital Music's Mistakes with DRM, 18 JL & Pol'y 925, 928 ).
The crux of Penguin's copyright infringement claim is not merely the unlawful electronic copying or uploading of the four copyrighted books. Rather, it is the intended consequence of those activities—the instantaneous availability of those copyrighted works on American Buddha's Web sites for anyone, in New York or elsewhere, with an Internet connection to read
As a result, although it may make sense in traditional commercial tort cases to equate a plaintiff's injury with the place where its business is lost or threatened, it is illogical to extend that concept to online copyright infringement cases where the place of uploading is inconsequential and it is difficult, if not impossible, to correlate lost sales to a particular geographic area. In short, the out-of-state location of the infringing conduct carries less weight in the jurisdictional inquiry in circumstances alleging digital piracy and is therefore not dispositive.
The second critical factor that tips the balance in favor of identifying New York as the situs of injury derives from the unique bundle of rights granted to copyright owners. The Copyright Act gives owners of copyrighted literary works five "exclusive rights," which include the right of reproduction; the right to prepare derivative works; the right to distribute copies by sale, rental, lease or lending; the right to perform the work publicly; and the right to display the work publicly (see 17 USC § 106). Hence, a copyright holder possesses an overarching "right to exclude others from using his property" (eBay Inc. v MercExchange, L.L.C.,
Based on the multifaceted nature of these rights, a New York copyright holder whose copyright is infringed suffers something more than the indirect financial loss we deemed inadequate in Fantis Foods. For instance, one of the harms arising from copyright infringement is the loss or diminishment of the incentive to publish or write (see Twentieth Century Music Corp. v Aiken,
Moreover, the absence of any evidence of the actual downloading of Penguin's four works by users in New York is not fatal to a finding that the alleged injury occurred in New York.
In sum, the role of the Internet in cases alleging the uploading of copyrighted books distinguishes them from traditional commercial tort cases where courts have generally linked the injury to the place where sales or customers are lost. The location of the infringement in online cases is of little import inasmuch as the primary aim of the infringer is to make the works available to anyone with access to an Internet connection, including computer users in New York. In addition, the injury to a New York copyright holder, while difficult to quantify, is not as remote as a purely indirect financial loss due to the broad spectrum of rights accorded by copyright law. The concurrence of these two elements—the function and nature of the Internet and the diverse ownership rights enjoyed by copyright
Finally, contrary to American Buddha's assertion, our decision today does not open a Pandora's box allowing any nondomiciliary accused of digital copyright infringement to be haled into a New York court when the plaintiff is a New York copyright owner of a printed literary work. Rather, CPLR 302 (a) (3) (ii) incorporates built-in safeguards against such exposure by requiring a plaintiff to show that the nondomiciliary both "expects or should reasonably expect the act to have consequences in the state" and, importantly, "derives substantial revenue from interstate or international commerce." There must also be proof that the out-of-state defendant has the requisite "minimum contacts" with the forum state and that the prospect of defending a suit here comports with "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice," as required by the Federal Due Process Clause (International Shoe Co. v Washington,
Accordingly, as reformulated, the certified question should be answered in accordance with this opinion.
Following certification of a question by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and acceptance of the question by this Court pursuant to section 500.27 of the Rules of Practice of the New York State Court of Appeals (22 NYCRR
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