A Generation of Racketeers? Eliminating Civil RICO Liability for Copyright Infringement

A Generation of Racketeers? Eliminating Civil RICO Liability for Copyright Infringement

Julie L. Ross · 13 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 55

Abstract

This article addresses questions raised in recent years by the increasingly severe penalties for copyright infringement, focusing on potential civil RICO liability as illustrated by a hypothetical peer-topeer file-sharing example. Because civil litigation has been, by a wide margin, the favored means for pursuing copyright violators, the criminal copyright infringement statute remains largely untested, and the few cases that address its provisions offer conflicting interpretations. Now that RICO penalties are available in civil copyright infringement cases, courts faced with resolving the ambiguities in the application of the criminal copyright infringement provisions will need to reconcile divergent policies. To effectuate its remedial purpose, courts broadly interpret the RICO statute—even beyond the scope intended by Congress—yet rely heavily on the legislative history of the Copyright Act to balance the interest of copyright owners in controlling their works with that of the public in accessing them.