IQ Group, Ltd. v. Weisner Publishing, LLC

In IQ Group, Ltd. v. Weisner Publishing, LLC, 409 F.Supp.2d 587 (D.N.J. 2006), the District of New Jersey restricted application of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), the Act that governs items such as the copyright of the music files on an iPod, by narrowly defining the meaning of “copyright management information”. Based on 17 U.S.C. § 1202, the Court found that a broader interpretation of the law, as advocated by Plaintiffs, would create an inappropriate overlap with trademark law. The District of New Jersey interpreted this matter of first impression consistently with the developing case-law surrounding the DCMA.

IQ Group was the result of a dispute over copyright issues involving e-mails created by an advertising agency. These e-mails contained the company’s logo and hyperlink in addition to an advertisement. When two of the company’s clients engaged new advertising agencies, these new agencies re-used the e-mail created by the original company, but first removed the logo and hyperlink. The original company brought suit under the DCMA, arguing that it was entitled to hold the copyright to the advertisement in the e-mail. Specifically, the company alleged, pursuant to the DCMA, that the acts of the new agency constituted removal of copyright management information and distribution of false copyright information, among other related claims.

The Court found that the definition of “copyright management information” should be narrowly construed, in part, in order to prevent overlap with trademark law. The Court stated that the DCMA applies to technological means of controlling access and reproduction of copyrighted works: automated copyright protection or management systems. There was no evidence that the company in this case placed the logo and hyperlink in the e-mail in an effort to copyright the advertisement, much less that it was a part of such an automated system.

The Court, therefore, held that the proper framework within which to analyze the dispute would be within the context of trademark law. In this way, the Court restricts the DCMA to its legislative purpose, which was to regulate copyright issues created by new technologies, not by replacing existing infrastructure in the law of intellectual property.

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