YouTube: We’re Not Liable for Copyright Infringement; Blame Viacom

Company files brief in response to Viacom’s appeal of a $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit

YouTube insisted that it isn’t liable for alleged copyright violation and that it qualifies for safe harbor protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in a brief filed Friday with the U.S. Second Court of Appeals.

The brief was a response to Viacom’s appeal of a $1 billion lawsuit it lost in June 2010, that accused the online video broadcaster of rampant copyright infringement.
 
“The statute makes copyright owners, not service providers responsible for policing their copyrights by identifying and, if they choose, requesting the removal of infringing material,” Google attorneys said. “When plaintiffs notified YouTube about videos that they did not want on the site, YouTube removed them expeditiously.” YouTube became a wholly owned subsidiary of Google in November 2006.
 
Viacom disagrees.

“In enacting the DMCA, Congress expressly sought to achieve a balance between protecting content and encouraging the development of new forms of online distribution,” the global entertainment content provider posted on a website dedicated to its litigation with YouTube.

“The intentional theft of copyrighted works not only undermines that balance; it destroys the value of the very works Congress sought to protect along with the businesses of online distributors who honestly comply with the law,” Viacom asserted.

In the brief, Google accuses Viacom of posting copyrighted works to YouTube and later requesting their removal, as it sought to purchase the then two-year old venture. “Viacom sent YouTube takedown notices for approximately 100,000 clips, a tactic that it hoped would pressure YouTube to accept Viacom’s terms,” according to the brief.
 
“In its zeal to inflate the number of takedown requests, Viacom erroneously targeted many clips that Viacom itself had authorized to appear on YouTube as well as thousands of other videos in which Viacom had no copyright interest at all. Even so, by the next business day, YouTube had taken down the videos that Viacom had identified. Having failed to obtain the deal that it wanted, Viacom sued YouTube in March 2007.”
 
Viacom has charged that YouTube encouraged uploading copyright materials on its website to build traffic. In defending YouTube, Google lawyers described YouTube’s philosophical roots.
 
“YouTube’s founders took copyright issues seriously and recognized that doing so was important to building their business. They never solicited infringing material or encouraged users to post unauthorized videos,” the brief stated. “To the contrary, YouTube’s earliest advertisements emphasized its aim to ‘become a community of digital video authors and their videos.’”
 
In June 2010, 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 argument that it should be protected by the DMCA in cases of copyright infringement.
 
After that ruling, Viacom vowed to appeal.
 
”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,” Viacom lawyers said.