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.
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