April 6, 2012

Court Revives Viacom Copyright Lawsuit Against YouTube

An American appeals court has ruled to revive a lawsuit filed by Viacom against Google regarding copyrighted material being uploaded to YouTube, various media outlets reported Thursday.

According to SlashGear's Rue Liu and Reuters' Jonathan Stempel and Yinka Adegoke, Thursday's decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a June 2010 ruling in favor of YouTube and Google which stated that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), a website could not be held liable for having a general idea that users could upload intellectual property belonging to others and did not need to monitor for such occurrences.

The justice in the original case, Judge Louis Stanton, ruled correctly that YouTube is protected by the DMCA under some situations, Judge Jose Cabranes wrote in the appeals court decision, according to Grant Gross of IDG News.

However, Cabranes further ruled that "a reasonable jury could find that YouTube had actual knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity on its website," and that Stanton interpreted the law incorrectly when he said that the "safe harbor" laws can protect websites in such cases unless they have, in Gross's words, knowledge of specific works being infringed on their sites."

Both sides in the issue praised the ruling. Viacom told AFP reporter Glenn Chapman that Cabranes' verdict sends a clear message that "intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law." Google, on the other hand, told Chapman, "All that is left of the Viacom lawsuit that began as a wholesale attack on YouTube is a dispute over a tiny percentage of videos long ago removed from YouTube“¦ Nothing in this decision impacts the way YouTube is operating."

Viacom first sued Google and YouTube in March 2007, claiming that they permitted pirated videos to be uploaded to the website in order to bolster its popularity among the online community. That lawsuit was later combined with similar complaints filed by the English Premier League football/soccer association and other film studios and television networks, according to Chapman and Liu.

"Needless to say, my clients are delighted," Charles Sims, a lawyer for the English Premier League and other plaintiffs in the case, told Reuters on Thursday. "YouTube willfully blinded itself to specific infringement and had ample ability to control infringing activity within the meaning of the copyright law."

Ironically, the court ruling comes one day after YouTube announced that it would partner with Paramount Pictures, a branch of Viacom, in order to bring movie rentals to the popular video-sharing site. As part of the Wednesday announcement, YouTube said it would offer movie rentals of nearly 500 Paramount movies. New films, such as “Hugo” can be rented alongside older films, such as “The Godfather,” according to previous Reuters reports.