Viacom Loses $1B YouTube Suit; Plans Appeal

Viacom says in a sharply worded statement that it plans to appeal

In a case that has been closely watched by media companies everywhere for its potential impact on digital content ownership, Viacom lost its $1 billion copyright lawsuit against Google-owned YouTube on Wednesday.

A judge in the U.S. Southern District of New York granted Google’s motion for summary judgment in the case, effectively ruling in favor of YouTube’s contention that it should be protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in cases of copyright infringement.

Viacom plans to appeal.

“Today, the court granted our motion for summary judgment in Viacom’s lawsuit with YouTube,” Kent Walker, vice president and general counsel for Google, said in a statement posted on Google’s official blog. “This means that the court has decided that YouTube is protected by the safe harbor of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) against claims of copyright infringement. The decision follows established judicial consensus that online services like YouTube are protected when they work cooperatively with copyright holders to help them manage their rights online.”

Walker continued: “This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We’re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world.”

Viacom released its own sharply-worded statement on the decision: “We believe that this ruling by the lower court is fundamentally flawed and contrary to the language of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the intent of Congress, and the views of the Supreme Court as expressed in its most recent decisions. We intend to seek to have these issues before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as soon as possible. After years of delay, this decision gives us the opportunity to have the Appellate Court address these critical issues on an accelerated basis. We look forward to the next stage of the process.”

David Sohn, senior counsel at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy & Technology, said YouTube's win was monumental for user-generated content on the Web.

"Today's decision isn't just about YouTube," said Sohn.  "Without this decision, user generated content would dry up and the Internet would cease to be a participatory medium."

CDT's president Leslie Harris added: "A Viacom win would have gutted a critical part of the DMCA's copyright bargain."