Google has filed its response to Viacom's $1 billion lawsuit over copyright infringement. The gist: Viacom's lawsuit hampers the Internet and challenges the protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Google's response (Techmeme)--you're forgiven if you are shocked that Viacom and Google haven't settled yet--denies a lot and acknowledges a few basic facts, but does indicate the search giant's strategy.
Here's Google's argument in a nutshell (see full response via PDF):
Viacom's lawsuit challenges the protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") that Congress enacted a decade ago to encourage the development of services like YouTube. Congress recognized that such services could not and would not exist if they faced liability for copyright infringement based on materials users uploaded to their services. It chose to immunize these services from copyright liability provided they are properly responsive to notices of alleged infringement from content owners. Looking at the online world today, there is no question that Congress made the correct policy choice. Legitimate services like YouTube provide the world with free and authorized access to extraordinary libraries of information that would not be available without the DMCA -- information created by users who have every right to share it. YouTube fulfills Congress's vision for the DMCA. YouTube also fulfills its end of the DMCA bargain, and indeed goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works. By seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for internet communications, Viacom's complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression.
Translation: Google stands for all that enables the Internet. Viacom is evil--or at least misguided.
The issue for the judge--assuming this ongoing spat gets before a jury--will be to decide who creates YouTube's content. Sure, users upload, edit and otherwise embellish content. But content from companies like Viacom provide the raw material. The big questions will revolve around degrees of usage. When does something like Comedy Central turn into something new once a user plays with it a bit?
Disclosure: CBS is buying CNET, parent of ZDNet. CBS and Viacom were once the same company and are now siblings. Both CBS and Viacom are controlled by the same guy--Sumner Redstone. It's a roundabout disclosure, but figured I'd offer it anyway.