Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Gary Bernstein v. J.C. Penney, Inc., et al.
1998 U.S. Dist. Lexis 19048 (C.D. Cal., Sept. 29, 1998)
Gary Bernstein, a photographer, brought suit charging that a website two links removed from a site containing infringing copies of plaintiff's copyrighted photos was guilty of copyright infringement. To promote co-defendant Elizabeth Arden Co.'s Passion perfume, defendant J.C. Penney created a link from its website to that of the Internet Movie Database ("IMD"). The IMD site contained materials concerning the actress Elizabeth Taylor, Passion's spokesperson. Included among these materials was a link to the Swedish University Network, on which the offending photos were found.
Defendant Conopco, Arden's parent, moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. Conopco advanced a number of arguments in support of its contention that it was not guilty of copyright infringement, including (a) a company whose product is merely displayed on another entity's website cannot be held liable for any infringement by the author of the website and (b) linking cannot constitute direct copyright infringement because the linking website does not copy or otherwise process the content of the linked-to site.
Without explaining his reasoning, Judge Real granted defendant Conopco's motion, and dismissed so much of the complaint which asserted claims against Arden. It has been reported that shortly after this decision, the plaintiff withdrew his remaining claims.