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Internet auction site eBay Inc. won what it called a precedent-setting court victory Thursday when a federal judge ruled that the company was not liable for copyright infringement because bootleg copies of a Charles Manson documentary were sold on the site. The case was one of several recently that have tested provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 law meant to stimulate Internet commerce while protecting copyrights. But the other cases, such as the criminal prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, are based on provisions in the law that ban technologies allowing people to circumvent copyright protections. The judge in the eBay case said it was the first to test whether a Web site has a “safe harbor” if people use the site to sell things that infringe on copyrights. Robert Hendrickson sued eBay in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles last year after the Internet company would not take down DVDs and videotapes of his 1972 documentary “Manson” that were being offered for sale. Hendrickson said the DVDs and tapes were pirated. EBay asked Hendrickson to submit a sworn, written statement detailing his claim through its Verified Rights Owner Program, which lets copyright holders request that eBay remove an infringing item. Hendrickson refused, saying his general complaints should have been good enough. Judge Robert J. Kelleher dismissed Hendrickson’s request for damages from eBay, saying, among other things, that the copyright infringement actually occurred offline. Although it may facilitate the sale of pirated material, “eBay does not have the right and ability to control such activity,” a standard required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the judge wrote. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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