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Judge junks Viacom's YouTube suit

Google won an immense legal victory when a federal judge dismissed a $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom against its YouTube video-sharing site.

U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted YouTube's request for summary judgment Wednesday afternoon--that is, declaring Viacom's arguments too weak to deserve further examination.

As copyright litigation goes, this is a Big Deal. Stanton held that YouTube complied with the relevant provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that require Internet services to remove infringing copies of copyrighted content when asked by copyright holders, but which don't require online firms to look for copyright violations themselves.

These "notice and takedown" provisions boil down to the principle that Internet providers and Web hosts aren't cops and shouldn't have to act like them.

Viacom had argued that YouTube knew that people were posting copies of movies and TV shows, encouraged that conduct and profited from it. But Stanton's 30-page ruling (PDF) cites the text of the DMCA, its legislative history and numerous earlier DMCA rulings to reject that argument in decisive terms.

That opinion could actually have been worse for Viacom. Documents provided to the court earlier this year revealed that Viacom had considered buying YouTube, then had its employees upload clips of Viacom's own copyrighted works even as the lawsuit progressed. But Stanton's only nod to those findings was quoting Viacom's general counsel as saying that the difference between YouTube and Grokster, a firm wiped out by a successful DMCA lawsuit, was "staggering."

If you're hoping that your Internet provider, photo-sharing site or Web host will continue to treat you as a customer, not a criminal--and that those and other companies can roll out new services without getting them approved upfront by Hollywood lawyers or the Feds--today's ruling should be good news. Then again, Viacom and its ilk aren't limited to appealing Stanton's interpretation of current law; they can try to bend the law in their direction. This story isn't over yet.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 23, 2010; 6:20 PM ET
Categories:  Policy and politics , Video  
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check out GETTYand HITLER

Posted by: MacDonald1 | June 23, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

What the Courts giveth, ACTA may well take away.

I discuss YouTube and the DMCA in the new book, Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People (University of Toronto Press, 2010).

Dr. Strangelove

Posted by: Doc_Strangelove | June 23, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Judge Stanton's is an excellent decision for Google - and more importantly, for users - but naturally it will be appealed. After all, lawyers have their own, extremely effective (but dear for us others) form of unemployment insurance....


Posted by: mhenriday | June 24, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

It's good to see the wpost reporting about the reporting on this issue.

Posted by: hihi22 | June 24, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I just can't believe that after all of the emails from Youtube's founders discussing the copyright that they still won.

Posted by: mlschafer | June 25, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

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