YouTube Prevails Over Viacom In $1Billion Infringement Suit
The world’s access to viral videos, vlogs, and other multimedia paraphernalia is safe for another day. A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of YouTube on Wednesday, embracing Google’s interpretation of the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and putting Viacom’s attempt to collect more than $1 billion in damages on ice for now. The decision is being hailed by internet service providers and free speech groups as an important reaffirmation of the protections extended to internet content providers under the DMCA, especially as copyright holders become increasingly aggressive.
The DMCA was passed in 1998 as a response to growing use of the internet to distribute copyrighted material and amid fears that this trend would both destroy the value of copyrighted works and spark a firestorm of litigation. The portion of the Act at issue here has been Title II, which protects online service providers against liability for copyright infringement so long as they block access to copyrighted material after receiving notice from the owner. Viacom and other copyright owners have objected to the obligation the DMCA places on the copyright owner to police the internet for unauthorized use of their content. They see companies like YouTube, and therefore Google, as building their business models around the unauthorized exploitation of their work, banking on the fact that users will simply upload content faster than the owners can spot it. With Viacom being one of few companies willing to bring such a large suit for infringement, YouTube appears to have made the winning bet. However, Viacom has already vowed to challenge the decision, ensuring that this case will continue to probe the durability of the 12-year-old DMCA well into 2011 and beyond.
Perhaps ironically, the common use of these ‘take-down’ notices against YouTube has actually been a major contributor to the public’s awareness of copyright law and the tension over the publication of copyrighted material on the internet.