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Florida Law Places New Requirements on Internet Businesses

Online piracy of music and other media has been a problem that the internet has been trying to cope with for years now. A new Florida law is attempting to make piracy easier for content owners to respond to. The law, known as the True Origin of Digital Goods Act, was signed into law on May 21st, and requires certain online companies to make identifying information available on their websites. The goal of this is to allow copyright owners to better track down people that they believe may be violating their intellectual property rights.

The New Requirements

The law’s requirements are supposed to make it easier for content owners to identify people responsible for the infringement of their copyright by requiring the provision of contact information on the website. The law requires the owner of a covered website to display a variety of contact information, including their full name, their physical address, and either a telephone number or e-mail address, on their website. Further, the law requires that the information be displayed somewhere “readily accessible” to someone visiting the website. The law provides a non-exhaustive list of such readily accessible places including:

  • the initial landing page or home page,
  • the “about” or “about us” section of the website,
  • the “contact” section of the website, or
  • an information page.

The basic idea behind that requirement appears to be preventing site owners from hiding their contact information in their Terms of Use, or some other similar page.

Who the Law Affects

The new law, which goes into effect July 1st, has a surprisingly broad reach. It applies to anyone whose website deals “in substantial part in the electronic dissemination of third-party commercial recordings or audiovisual works.” This means that any website that hosts or distributes music, movies, or other audiovisual content that is not made by the site’s owner is subject to the law’s requirements. However, the law does exempt websites that distribute video games from the requirements.

What is particularly surprising about the new law is that it attempts to reach all websites that distribute the content to consumers within the state of Florida. From a practical perspective, this means that it does not just apply to websites that are incorporated in Florida or that operate from there. Instead, even out of state websites that are accessed by consumers from within the state can find that the law may apply to them.

The Law’s Purpose

The purpose of the law is to enable copyright holders to find people who are infringing their work, without unduly burdening content providers or other website owners. The law provides a simple, low cost way to ensure that copyright holders can get in contact with the person responsible for hosting the allegedly infringing material. Additionally, the law’s requirements only apply to websites disseminating “substantially all” of a work, so that people hosting short clips for some valid purpose do not find themselves accidentally caught within the law.

Running an internet business presents unique challenges, particularly when that business deals with copyrighted material. If you have found yourself in a business dispute, contact a Florida business litigation attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP to learn more about your rights.

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