Viacom v YouTube: victory for service providers

The decision by a US judge to rule in favour of YouTube in its defence of its service against the copyright attack of Viacom is a victory for service providers.

And a real warning to content generators to proactively defend their content.

Viacom was claiming $1 billion from YouTube, now owned by Google, for the infringement of 100s of 1,000s of copyright videos from its various TV shows.  It started the action in 2007.

In 2008 the judge, Louis L Stanton, had ordered YouTube to disclose to Viacom who had seen 1,000s of clips.  This seemed to show the judge leaning towards Viacom.  It met with a blast of indignant criticism by many, including blogger Zennie Abraham.

Now the Judge has made his final judgement in favour of YouTube.

The reasons are:

  • YouTube is covered by the “safe harbour” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the USA;
  • It is therefore an innocent distributor;
  • It may have had general knowledge of copyright violations but it needs to have specific knowledge in order to be able to locate and take down the videos; and
  • When told of specific copyright infringements by Viacom, YouTube took the videos down promptly.

Viacom may appeal.  Both sides have been told by the judge to get around a table and try to deal with the matter inside of the terms of his judgement.

Three steps to defend content

The outcome for content providers is clear:

  • Step 1: Keep monitoring sites where you think your content is being used against your wishes;
  • Step 2: Promptly tell the site chapter and verse of the alleged infringement; and
  • Step 3: Go to step 1.

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