Viacom: Yeah, We Knew We'd Have to Appeal the YouTube Case

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According to one judge’s reading of copyright laws, it’s perfectly OK for a site like YouTube to turn a blind eye to pilfered content on its service, so long as that material is “swiftly” taken down when notified.

“[I]f a service provider knows (from notice from the owner, or a ‘red flag’) of specific instances of infringement, the provider must promptly remove the infringing material. If not, the burden is on the owner to identify the infringement,” U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton wrote in his ruling yesterday held that Google and YouTube are protected from Viacom’s copyright-infringment lawsuit claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (see Judge: YouTube Protected From Viacom’s Copyright-Infringement Claims).

“General knowledge that infringement is ‘ubiquitous’ does not impose a duty on the service provider to monitor or search its service for infringements,” Judge Stanton concluded.

This may be a perfectly accurate reading of how the DMCA applies in this case.

But does it make sense that copyright laws should, in effect, allow Internet services to steal first — and only respect content owners’ rights if they’re called out after the fact?

Viacom, for one, obviously thinks something is amiss. The company has pointed to internal Google documents unearthed in the case including one 2006 presentation that said, “YouTube’s business model is completely sustained by pirated content” (see Google Document: YouTube ‘Sustained By Pirated Content’).

Yes, YouTube removed disputed clips after the media company sued, Michael Fricklas, Viacom executive vice president, general counsel and secretary, acknowledged in a statement released Wednesday night.

“Before that, however, YouTube and Google stole hundreds of thousands of video clips from artists and content creators, including Viacom, building a substantial business that was sold for billions of dollars,” Fricklas said. “We believe that should not be allowed by law or common sense.”

Fricklas said that Viacom “always knew that the critical underlying issue would need to be addressed by courts at the appellate levels. Today’s decision accelerates our opportunity to do so.”

Viacom plans to appeal the decision with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.