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Key Takeaways From Google’s Big Win Over Viacom

from – Google’s victory in the $1 billion lawsuit between YouTube and Viacom can teach online service providers important lessons about compliance with U.S. copyright laws.

Viacom originally sued YouTube for copyright infringement in 2007, claiming that YouTube knowingly and intentionally infringed on its copyrights and deliberately permitted copyrighted material to remain on its site.

Viacom was handed a heavy blow yesterday when a federal judge in Manhattan ruled in YouTube’s favor, granting a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case based on the safe-harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The provisions protect web service providers from infringement liability if they remove infringing material when requested by copyright holders. Service providers are not required to police their sites for copyright infringement.

YouTube was found to have swiftly removed infringing material upon receiving notice from Viacom of specific copyright infringement.

The decision in YouTube’s favor rested on the judge’s ruling that general knowledge of the presence of infringement on the site was not enough to constitute copyright infringement. This comes even after Viacom released copies of communications among key Google execs prior to its acquisition of YouTube indicating knowledge of infringement on the site.

In a statement released after the decision was handed down, Viacom pledged to appeal, claiming that

YouTube and Google stole hundreds of thousands of video clips from artists and content creators, including Viacom, building a substantial business that was sold for billions of dollars.

Despite the potential appeal of the decision, online content providers can take YouTube’s win as a guiding hand towards compliance with U.S. copyright laws.

Web service providers cannot turn a blind eye to specific infringement violations, but need not actively seek out infringers. General knowledge of infringement appears to be little cause for concern if providers cannot pinpoint specific violations. Most importantly, there is no room for hesitation in removing infringing content when web service providers receive notice of infringement.


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