Effect Of Florida Internet Law Goes Beyond Its State Borders

Effect Of Florida Internet Law Goes Beyond Its State Borders

June 22, 2015
by Jerry Glover

The Florida legislature has enacted, and Florida governor has signed, a new law entitled “The True Origin of Digital Goods Act” the effect of which reaches beyond Florida’s border.

This new law applies to those who own a website or online service that deals “in substantial part” with the electronic dissemination of “commercial recordings or audiovisual works, directly or indirectly, and who electronically disseminate such works to consumers in Florida].” Any such owner who distributes this type of material or makes it available to citizens of Florida must “conspicuously disclose [1] his or her true and correct name, [2] physical address and [3] telephone number or email address on his or her website or online service in a location readily accessible to a consumer using or visiting the website or online service.”

The new law defines “readily accessible” location for this identifying information as one of the following: (a) a landing or home page; (b) an “about” or “about us” web page; (c) a “contact” or “contact us” web page; (d) an information web page or (e) another place on the site “commonly used to display identifying information to consumers.”

What’s the purpose of this new state law? It seems to be directed at pirate websites like Bit Torrent and others which allow users to download illegally movies and sound recordings. Ownership of these types of websites is often difficult to ascertain. This identification requirement may go a long way in solving that problem.

Not surprisingly, the law reportedly received support from the recording industry. But the law does not provide a damages (i.e., monetary) remember for websites which violate the identification requirement. It only allows a copyright owner of material found on these websites without that owner’s permission to file for a declaratory judgment against the website owner and to obtain injunctive relief. The new law also allows a successful owner to recover litigation expenses and reasonable attorney fees.

But note that this law applies to websites that provide these audio and audio/visual materials to users. So if an online company located in California and without offices in Florida contains audio and/or audio/visual materials which can be downloaded by site users, that company must comply with the identification requirements. So all website owners offering this type of material, no matter where they are located, should be on notice about this law applies to them no matter how far removed from Florida they are.

The law does not apply to those websites or online services that offer only “an excerpt consisting of less than substantially all of a recording or audiovisual work.”

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