My Library and Courses
Last Update: Saturday October 31, 2020

Key Idea: Throw The Book At The Thieves

George Borkowski of Los Angeles, representing the Record Industry of America (RIA)   successfully sued Napster in US Supreme Court, then went after Grokster and backed them down.   More...

Key Question:


  Hire an attorney.

Thankfully, the team at Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp (along with other law firms) won the Napster and Grokster cases. The Supreme Court made it clear that intellectual property is protected in the digital world as it is in the physical world.

Q: Is there a way to bring copyright infringement cases and not bust your budget?

A: Yes. Here at Small Business School, we were able to convince an attorney to take an intellectual property case on contingency. The first lawyer we went to said no to us but through a relative we found great representation. This attorney is also a judge. He took the case on top of his full-time job which may have been the key. If you only go to lawyers who are starving, they can't afford to work for you while betting on the come. To win him over, we presented the facts in detail and provided hard evidence that our intellectual property had been stolen.

He made an offer to the offending party and they paid us rather than be taken to court. We gave our attorney one third of the funds he collected for us so it was a win-win. The financial part was satisfying but the legal settlement and the admission on the part of the guilty party was also sweet.

As Mark Litvack said, litigation is expensive and we probably only have time to go after the bad guys who are using our property to make money. The rest of the thieves need to be taught right from wrong. The attorney you use on a regular basis can send a tough letter to anyone you find stealing your intellectual property. This action can and will stop the person who is stealing casually.

If you have required all employees to sign an agreement that they understand your company has intellectual property and they will not steal from you during or after their employment with you, you will have solid grounds to sue if they do. Bob Tarcea told us that a former employee stole from him and went straight to his competitor with his intellectual property. Bob even thinks she may have been working for both companies at the same time. Sadly, we all have to stop being so trusting and so naive.

Think about it

Who could you get to represent you if you needed to sue or threaten to sue?

Clip from: Protect Your Intellectual Property (IP)

Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Seattle: Economies grow when money is transacted for something of value. Theft kills economies and IP theft is a real pandemic.

Lying, cheating and stealing has been going on forever. But now, the other IP (Internet Protocol) has made it so easy to steal, our children and all sorts of decent-loving-gentle people think nothing about "borrowing, using, enjoying" and otherwise ripping off somebody's creative work.

In this episode of the show we visit with the lawyers who argued down Grokster in the U.S. Supreme Court. We visit with a small business owner who is being ripped off, a composer who is figuring it out, and technologists who are waging the war to protect our intellectual assets.

Go to all the key ideas and video...
Go to the homepage for this episode ...

Venable, LLP (formerly with Mitchell, Silberberg, Knupp)

George Borkowski, Partner

2049 Century Park East Suite 2100
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Visit our web site:

Office: 310.229.9900

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1908

Throw The Book At The Thieves

HATTIE: Isn't it getting more complicated? The whole idea of protecting intellectual property, isn't it more complicated today than ever before?

MARK: Absolutely. Part of it is because it is easier to steal. Part of it is because the difference between originals and copies get blended so quickly. Part of it is any time I can shrink the world to zeros and ones. You have people who are casual pirates and you have true businesses that are based on piracy. You can only litigate against some. You can educate everybody. What you need to do is teach everyone that it's wrong. What you call the casual end user, you don't want to sue them you want to teach them. The businesses based on piracy, you can't teach them anything. This is good vs bad and they're bad and you've got to bring in law enforcement and litigation and every tool you can against them.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Mark works closely with George Borkowski at Mitchell Silberberg and Knupp. Both are experts on intellectual property law. George was on the team that brought Napster to court.

GEORGE: The reason that Napster was important was it was the first case and probably the first big online challenge that said, "No. The copyright law is well thought out. It's been there for a long time. It protects certain fundamental principles and it has to apply to technology and it has to apply to the Internet." You don't get a free pass just because you're a technology company. You have to play according to the rules.

The Napster case started in 1999 into 2000. Napster was an online service that allowed users to log in and if they had copied music to their computers, they were able to offer their music to everybody else logged into Napster--and that was millions and millions of people. What that resulted in was millions and millions of tracks of music were being downloaded-- copied--without the copyright owners being paid for it. It was going on for quite awhile and it was getting bigger and bigger.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The Record Industry Association of America recognized George's effort by presenting him with an honorary gold record.

GEORGE: The court said that you cannot have a company like Napster that actually helps people break the law, and helps people infringe copyright.

MARK: What Napster recognized is that people wanted it delivered in that way. People wanted quick, easy delivery of music to their CD players to their iPods to their computers. What it saw was the market there -- yes, it got there before the legitimate industry and the legitimate industry has now come in and gotten there as well.

GEORGE: It was never our intention to shut Napster down. It was our intention to make it act legitimately.

HATTIE: Because you won that case, how did it change the playing field?

GEORGE: It changed the playing field because it allowed copyright owners to have a legal tool to go after these companies. Without that we wouldn't have been able to do that. It was important to establish the precedent that these online services could be liable for copyright infringement on a secondary basis. Grokster and the other companies like it took the Napster model a couple of steps further. They broadened it so you could exchange movies, software, video games, photographs, just about any kind of digital -- anything that you could digitize, almost, you could exchange on Napster and these other services.

HATTIE: Wait, I didn't know about the software.

GEORGE: There was a lot of software on these services, that's right. You could find it. You could send it around. You could download it. It's not just music anymore. It's important the Supreme Court gave us at least some tools to be able to shore up the copyright owner side of the equation because the other side of the equation had plenty of tools the last couple of years.

Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!