Viacom's New Argument Against YouTube: Embedding Videos Removes Safe Harbors

from the active-vs.-passive dept

While we already discussed Google's latest response to Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube, Cynthia Brumfeld has picked up on an interesting point that's been overlooked: Viacom's amended complaint includes a slightly different argument as to why Google/YouTube are not protected by the DMCA's safe harbors, effectively claiming that YouTube takes an active role in transmitting the content. This is somewhat similar to an earlier argument that some made that YouTube is disqualified from the safe harbors because it transforms video from its original format into flash, but stretches it even further.

Even worse, Viacom brings up the issue of embedding videos. Of course, YouTube's embedding feature that allows anyone to easily embed a video in any webpage was one of its big selling points. Last year, we had raised the question (that still hasn't been answered) whether or not it was copyright infringement to embed an infringing video into your own site (even though you don't host the content at all). Viacom seems to be claiming that by enabling this act of embedding is infringing. Why? Because it's YouTube serving up the video, rather than the original uploader.

That's a huge stretch by any imagination and hopefully the court will toss it out. Otherwise, it effectively nullifies the entire safe harbor provision of the DMCA. The point of the safe harbors are to protect the platform provider for the infringement of its users. If the court accepts Viacom's claim here, then it completely throws out that clear meaning of the safe harbor provision. It basically says that any service provider who "hosts" content that is accessed via another site is now guilty of copyright infringement, even if the company is never alerted that the content infringes. That goes against the clear meaning and purpose of the safe harbor provisions.
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Filed Under: dmca, embedding, safe harbors, youtube
Companies: google, viacom, youtube

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  1. identicon, 29 May 2008 @ 6:31am

    When are they just going to STFU? This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard... talk about splitting hairs. Like the last poster said, would it be illegal to have a link to said copyrighted video? Who would the blame fall on then? But, if it is an embedded video, it is the site owners fault?

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