Viacom v. Youtube

Viacom International, Inc. v. Youtube, Inc, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62829.

Facts: Viacom is claiming that youtube and google had engaged in brazen copyright infringement by allowing users to upload and view copyrighted material owned by Viacom. The complaint stated that there was over 150,000 unauthorized clips of Spongebob Squarepants and the daily show both of which are Viacom programs were on youtube. These clips had been viewed over 1.5 billions times. The claims by Viacom state that youtube engaged in, promoted and induced the infringement. They also claim that Youtube used this infringing work to increase the site’s traffic and thus get more advertising revenue. Viacom claimed three counts of direct infringement and three counts of indirect infringement (inducement, contributory infringement, and vicarious infringement). However, at the same time Viacom was also infringing the right of Youtube users by stealing and uploading their videos.

Procedural History: Defendants, a service provider and its owner, filed a motion for summary judgment that they were entitled to safe harbor protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 512(c), against plaintiff copyright owners' direct and secondary infringement claims. Plaintiffs filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment that defendants were not protected by the safe harbor provision and were liable for copyright infringement.

Issue: Whether Youtube had directly and indirectly infringed on Viacoms copyrighted material?

Holding: The court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment that defendants qualified for safe harbor protection under 17 U.S.C.S. § 512(c) against all of plaintiffs' claims for direct and secondary copyright infringement. The court denied plaintiffs' motions for judgment.

Discussion: Viacoms whole thing was that Youtube, which is owned by google, was aware of the copyright infringement the whole time. They said 10,000’s of you tube videos, which resulted in millions and millions of views, were taken unlawfully from Viacom’s copyrighted works without authorization and that the defendant’s had actual knowledge and were aware of facts and circumstances from which infringing activity was apparent, but they failed to do anything about it. So the main question at issue was whether youtube had actual knowledge that this was going on or specific knowledge of certain infringements. If they did then they were liable for infringement. However, per Youtubes policy, if they were made aware that something on their site was infringing them immediately took it off their site. “The court determined that the service provider's alleged general knowledge that infringement was ubiquitous did not impose a duty on the service provider to monitor or search its service for infringements. If the service provider did not know of specific instances of infringement, the burden was on the copyrights owners to identify the infringement.” Therefore they ruled in a summary judgment in favor of Youtube.
This was a landmark decision which really allows as much creative expression as possible on the internet without severe burdens. I feel along with many other’s that the plaintiff, Viacom, only filed this case because they were upset at Google who outbid them to buy Youtube for a staggering 1.76 billion dollars in 2006. They were probably upset at all the lost profits.

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