Google's YouTube is protected against Viacom's copyright-infringement claims by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal district court judge ruled Wednesday. Viacom said it plans an appeal.
Viacom 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.
Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Wednesday 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.
"When [YouTube] received specific notice that a particular item infringed a copyright, they swiftly removed it," Stanton wrote. "It is uncontroverted that all the clips in suit are off the YouTube website, most having been removed in response to DMCA takedown notices."
The DMCA, enacted in 1998, grants online service providers immunity from copyright liability if they remove unauthorized content after they receive a "takedown" notice from the copyright holder.
"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," Kent Walker, Google vice president and general counsel, wrote in post on the company's blog. "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 in a statement said: "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."
Viacom had argued that Google's claims of protection under the DMCA were disingenuous.
"YouTube and Google made a calculated business decision to use other people's copyrighted content as their start-up capital," Stanley Pierre-Louis, Viacom's vice president and associate general counsel for intellectual property and content protection, said in April after additional documents in the case were made public.
Consumer-interest group Public Knowledge said it was pleased with the court's decision Wednesday.
"It shows that the current structure of copyright law works well for even the largest of content-hosting sites," Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director, said in a statement. "As we have continually said, the burden to point out allegations of infringement is with the content provider, and the burden of taking down material lies with the service provider. Had Viacom won this case, that burden would have shifted dramatically. As the law now stands, prompt compliance with take-down notices shields an online service provider from liability."