What are the copyright implications of storing information in the cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)?

This is still an emerging area of copyright law, and little has been tested so far in the courts. The information that we have found so far hints that copyright in the cloud is treated similarly to copyright on a single machine, and the main issue becomes who has permissions to view/copy/edit the material in the cloud rather than the many servers involved in storing the material.

The closest we come to finding guidance on this emerging issue comes from Smith v. BarnesandNoble.com, LLC. In this case Judge Carter did not rule on this particular issue, but he did say that “An individual may move copyrighted material around on his personal hard drive without infringing on copyrights. See ReDigi, 934 F.Supp.2d at 651 (“Any movement of copyrighted files on a hard drive, including relocating files between directories and defragmenting… is almost certainly protected under other doctrines or defenses.”). To find that she may not move material between her personal hard drive and personal cloud-based digital locker without infringing would have far-reaching consequences” (page 125). Again, the judge did not make a formal ruling on this issue, but it’s the closest hint that we have so far about how to think through this issue.

If you are concerned about a the copyright implications of storing a particular item in the cloud, please contact us. Much of what we do with our digital files is governed by license agreements and terms of service, but we can help you think through any remaining copyright questions.