Computer Bulletin Board Operator Liability for Users’ Infringing Acts

This Note argues that a computer bulletin board operator’s liability for copyright infringement by users of the bulletin board should be analyzed under the theory of contributory copyright infringement. This Note calls for a standard of liability under contributory copyright infringement that accommodates the competing interests at stake in the resolution of this issue. Part I provides an overview of copyright infringement law and argues that in most situations the operator’s actions, viewed independently, do not constitute copyright infringement. Part II explores theories of third-party liability. This Part rejects the doctrine of vicarious liability as an effective means for establishing bulletin board operator liability and argues that contributory copyright infringement theory provides a more solid foundation for finding operator liability. Part III then proposes that courts employ a negligence standard to analyze contributory copyright infringement claims against bulletin board operators.