Google wins copyright case PDF Print E-mail

Judge throws out $billion Viacom lawsuit.

Viacom, one of the world's largest media conglomerates, has been at war with YouTube since 2007 when they sent upwards of 100 000 take down notices to the video-sharing site.

The notices alleged large-scale copyright infringement and that it was Google's responsibility not to distribute such content. The company filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google and YouTube, saying that YouTube had caused a drop in Viacom revenue, and that Google was aware of the nature of the content that may be posted, but refused to remove it because it brought in hits to their site.

However, Judge District Judge Louis Stanton ruled, "Mere knowledge of prevalence of such activity in general is not enough. The provider need not monitor or seek out facts indicating such activity."

In his 30-page ruling he declared that YouTube is eligible for “safe-harbour” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) because whenever infringement was brought to the site's attention, they took down the offensive content. As there was no way to moderate every video when it was posted, the site could not be held liable for it.

Viacom's snafu

In 2008 another ruling by Stanton forced YouTube to hand over user data detailing the habits of every person who watched videos on the site. Viacom was hoping to find evidence that Google employees were uploading copyrighted videos. Embarrassingly, what the data showed when analysed by YouTube, was that copyrighted content was actually being uploaded by Viacom employees as a marketting tool. As YouTube detailed to the court:

"Viacom's efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself."


The ruling is a landmark one because it sets a president for user content in the future.

Google vice president and general counsel Kent Walker said of the ruling, “This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other.”

Viacom is pressing for an appeal, calling the ruling “fundamentally flawed”.

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