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Viacom $1 Billion Copyright Suit Rejected

18 Apr, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey

A U.S. appeals court has again ruled against Viacom in its years-running $1 billion copyright suit against Google-owned YouTube.

The court upheld a previous ruling that safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protected YouTube from alleged copyright violations. Viacom argued that YouTube was in violation of copyright law for nearly 80,000 clips that appeared on the video site between 2005 and 2008.

“There is no evidence that YouTube induced its users to submit infringing videos, provided users with detailed instructions about what content to upload or edited their content, prescreened submissions for quality, steered users to infringing videos, or otherwise interacted with infringing users to a point where it might be said to have participated in infringing activity,” U.S. District Court judge Louis Stanton wrote in the April 18 ruling.

Stanton had ruled in YouTube’s favor in mid-2010, but an appeals court last year sent the case back, suggesting the question whether YouTube willfully ignored copyright violations had not been answered. Stanton wrote in his ruling that the burden of proof was on Viacom, and the company could not supply it.

“The burden of showing that YouTube knew or was aware of the specific infringements of the works in suit cannot be shifted to YouTube to disprove,” the ruling reads. “Congress has determined that the burden of identifying what must be taken down is to be on the copyright owner, a determination which is proven practicable in practice. [Viacom] acknowledges that they lack ‘the kind of evidence that would allow a clip by clip assessment’ supplies the answer.”

Viacom again vowed to appeal the ruling.

“This ruling ignores the opinions of the higher courts and completely disregards the rights of creative artists,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to believe that a jury should weigh the facts of this case and the overwhelming evidence that YouTube willfully infringed on our rights, and we intend to appeal the decision.”

Kent Walker, SVP and general counsel for Google, called the ruling “a win not just for YouTube, but for the billions of people worldwide who depend on the Web to freely exchange ideas and information.”

“In enacting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Congress effectively balanced the public interest in free expression with the rights of copyright holders,” he said. “The court today reaffirmed an established judicial consensus that the DMCA protects Web platforms like YouTube that work with rightsholders and take appropriate steps to remove user-generated content that rightsholders notify them is infringing.”

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