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Viacom, YouTube Copyright Suit Revived

5 Apr, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

A U.S. appeals court revived Viacom’s long-running copyright suit against Google-owned YouTube April 5, ruling that a lower court erred when it ruled that safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protected YouTube from alleged copyright violations.

The news comes a day after Viacom-owned Paramount and YouTube agreed to offer 500 Paramount movies for VOD on Google Play and YouTube, including Oscar-winners such as The Godfather and Hugo.

“Although the District Court correctly held that the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] safe harbor requires knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity, we vacate the order granting summary judgment because a reasonable jury could find that YouTube had actual knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity on its website,” the ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.

“We further hold that the District Court erred by interpreting the ‘right and ability to control’ infringing activity to require ‘item-specific’ knowledge,” the ruling continues.

Viacom had argued that YouTube was responsible for copyright violations related to approximately 79,000 clips that appeared on YouTube between 2005 and 2008, and sought $1 billion in damages. In June 2010, a district court judge ruled in favor of YouTube, “primarily because they had insufficient notice of the particular infringements,” the ruling reads.

But the appeals court ruled that it was premature of the lower court to rule in favor of YouTube, since the question still remains whether YouTube willfully ignored the copyright violations.

“ … We think it prudent to remand to the District Court to consider in the first instance whether the plaintiffs have adduced sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that YouTube had the right and ability to control the infringing activity and received a financial benefit directly attributable to that activity,” the ruling reads.

Viacom released a statement, praising the ruling: “We are pleased with the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court delivered a definitive, common sense message — intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law.”

YouTube countered in a statement that “Nothing in this decision impacts the way YouTube is operating.

“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.”



About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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