See no evil

The Wall Street Journal is reporting a summary judgment ruling in the Viacom vs. YouTube copyright infringment case (link to the opinion here).

For those of you not familiar with the case, Viacom, which owns a host of media outlets, is suing on the theory that YouTube/Google is legally responsible for Viacom clips that YouTube users post.  As Judge Louis Stanton puts it, “the critical question” from a legal perspective is whether the law punishes an online service provider that has “a general awareness that there are infringements” taking place (i.e., the fact that everyone knows there are infringing videos up on YouTube) or whether YouTube is only responsible if it has “actual or constructive knowledge of specific and identifiable infringements of individual items.”  Closely reading the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [text] and its legislative history, Judge Stanton concludes that “[m]ere knowledge of prevalence of [infringing] activity is not enough….To let knowledge of a generalized practice of infringement in the industry, or of a proclivity of users to post infringing materials, impose responsibility on service providers to discover which of their users’ posting infringe a copyright would contravene the structure and operation of the DMCA.”

This one’s virtually certain to be appealed.  Stay tuned…

Chunga – 6/23/10 8:24 PM – The onus now seems to be on the content providers, like Viacom, to monitor which of their products are uploaded and then ask for their removal (which Google appears quite willing to do). If Viacom does not explicitly ask for a removal, YouTube/Google can keep all sorts of of copyrighted material online?

Sagescape – 6/23/10 9:34 PM – Generally speaking, that’s correct.  There’s a very helpful FAQ maintained by that describes the DMCA’s “notice and takedown” process in some detail.

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