Internet Video

Viacom: YouTube Ruling Protects Content Thieves

12/03/2010 2:37 PM Eastern

Viacom filed an opening brief Friday in its appeal of a federal judge's June decision that Google and YouTube are protected from the media company's copyright-infringement claims by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, arguing that if upheld it would "immunize from copyright infringement liability even avowedly piratical Internet businesses."

In June, Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted Google's request for a summary judgment that it qualifies for DMCA protection, saying that YouTube removed illegal content promptly as required by federal copyright law.

Viacom is appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The ruling's interpretation of how the DMCA applies to YouTube, "if affirmed by this Court... would radically transform the functioning of the copyright system and severely impair, if not completely destroy, the value of many copyrighted creations," the media company said in its 72-page brief.

According to Viacom, the correct reading of DMCA indicates that "Internet service providers that not only are aware of pervasive copyright infringement, but actively participate in and profit from it, enjoy no immunity from the copyright laws and may be held to account for their theft of artists' creations."

On Thursday, Google announced it would do a better job of cracking down on online copyright infringers -- including responding to "reliable" requests to remove content within 24 hours.

Google, in a statement about Viacom's appeal, said, "We regret that Viacom continues to drag out this case. The court here, like every other court to have considered the issue, correctly ruled that the law protects online services like YouTube, which remove content when notified by the copyright holder that it is unauthorized. We will strongly defend the court's decision on appeal."

After the June ruling, the Internet company said it was "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."

Google also had claimed Viacom "continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube" and deliberately made it look stolen or leaked, which made it hard to determine which videos were unauthorized.

But Viacom said YouTube and Google deliberately allowed infringing material to be uploaded and shared on the video Website. At one point, according to Viacom's appellate brief, Google offered to license Viacom's copyrights in a deal Google valued at a minimum of $590 million.

Viacom, whose properties include MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures, filed suit against YouTube and Google in 2007, alleging they engaged in deliberate copyright infringement designed to boost traffic to YouTube and was seeking more than $1 billion in damages.

The DMCA grants online service providers immunity from copyright liability if they remove unauthorized content after they receive a "takedown" notice from the copyright holder.

Viacom is being represented in the appeal by Jenner & Block; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, as well as  Shearman and Sterling.

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