Huge Victory: Court Rules For YouTube Against Viacom
from the wow dept
Well this is a pleasant surprise. Like many others, I had assumed that the court reviewing the Viacom/YouTube lawsuit would not accept either side’s position for summary judgment and the case would go to a full trial. However, as Eric Goldman alerts us, the court has quickly ruled in favor of Google/YouTube, saying that it is, in fact, protected by the DMCA’s safe harbors. Here’s the ruling:
The tenor of the foregoing provisions is that the phrases “actual knowledge that the material or an activity” is infringing, and “facts or circumstances” indicating infringing activity, describe knowledge of specific and identifiable infringements of particular individual items. Mere knowledge of prevalence of such activity in general is not enough.
That is consistent with an area of the law devoted to protection of distinctive individual works, not of libraries. 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.
The court points out that not only does this makes sense from the legislative history on the DMCA, but also from a common sense standpoint:
That makes sense, as 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. . . .”
Not only that, the court finds that since Google is good about taking down content it receives DMCA notices on, it appears the system has been working just fine, and Viacom’s worries are misguided:
Indeed, the present case shows that the DMCA notification regime works efficiently:
when Viacom over a period of months accumulated some 100,000 videos and then sent one mass take-down notice on February 2, 2007, by the next business day YouTube had removed virtually all of them.
Once again, making it clear that “general knowledge” of infringing behavior is entirely different from the specific knowledge required by the DMCA:
Although by a different technique, the DMCA applies the same principle, and its establishment of a safe harbor is clear and practical:
if a service provider knows (from notice from the owner, or a “red flag”) of specific instances of infringement, the provider must promptly remove the infringing material. If not, the burden is on the owner to identify the infringement. General knowledge that infringement
is “ubiquitous” does not impose a duty on the service provider to monitor or search its service for infringements.
The court also claims that the rulings in the Grokster, Isohunt and Limewire cases are not relevant here, as the situations in all three were entirely different. Amusingly, the judge quotes the rather damning email from Viacom’s general counsel Michael Fricklas, where he stated, quite clearly, that YouTube was “staggering” in its difference from Grokster.
Basically, the court sides with Google/YouTube on every point and eviscerates the arguments of Viacom. This is a huge victory for common sense and the proper application of liability. Viacom will certainly appeal, so we’re nowhere near done yet, but it’s great to see the court get this one so thoroughly correct.