Google prevails in Viacom-YouTube copyright lawsuit; Appeals on deck

Google prevails in Viacom-YouTube copyright lawsuit; Appeals on deck

Summary: Google is victorious in a legal battle with Viacom over copyright infringement on YouTube as courts found that the DMCA's take-down notice process is effective.

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A court today ruled that YouTube, as the host of online videos that often include copyright-protected clips, is protected against claims of copyright infringement because it quickly worked with copyright holders to removed protected content when notified of it. (PDF of court ruling)

The ruling in Viacom vs. YouTube legal case, determined that YouTube is protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act against claims of infringement. Here's what the courts had to say:

To let knowledge of a generalized practice of infringement in the industry, or of a proclivity of users to post infringing materials, impose responsibility on service providers to discover which of their users’ postings infringe a copyright would contravene the structure and operation of the DMCA.

In essence, the courts should not take on the role of shifting the burden from the copyright holder to the provider. The court ruling continued:

...the infringing works in suit may be a small fraction of millions of works posted by others on the service’s platform, whose provider cannot by inspection determine whether the use has been licensed by the owner, or whether its posting is a “fair use” of the material, or even whether its copyright owner or licensee objects to its posting. The DMCA is explicit: it shall not be construed to condition “safe harbor” protection on “a service provider monitoring its service or affirmatively seeking facts indicating infringing activity . . . .”

The court went on to say that the YouTube case actually proves that "the DMCA notification regime works efficiently," citing Viacom's massive take-down notice of some 100,000 videos submitted to YouTube on Feb. 2, 2007. By the next business day, YouTube removed pretty much all of the questionable videos.

Viacom, in a statement posted on All Things D's Media Memo blog, called the ruling "fundamentally flawed and contrary to the language of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the intent of Congress, and the views of the Supreme Court as expressed in its most recent decisions." It said it plans to appeal the ruling.

In its own blog post, Google called the ruling "an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other."

In its own statement, consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge said it was pleased with the landmark ruling and suggested that policymakers looking into copyright law revisions take a hard look at today's court ruling:

As we have continually said, the burden to point out allegations of infringement is with the content provider, and the burden of taking down material lies with the service provider.  Had Viacom won this case, that burden would have shifted dramatically.  As the law now stands, prompt compliance with take-down notices shields an online service provider from liability. We hope those policymakers who look continually to make our copyright law more draconian and unbalanced will take this ruling to heart, and note that the current law is working quite well to protect content creators while taking into account the responsibilities of online service providers.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Google, Legal

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