Internet Attorney Update: Viacom Appeals Summary Judgment Ruling in Trademark and Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Google and YouTube

August 16th, 2010

Holding true to its promise, Viacom has appealed a judgment by the District Court for the Southern District of New York wherein Judge Stanton ruled that Google and YouTube are not liable for copyright infringement based on Safe Harbor provision of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

This case began back in 2007 with Viacom’s initial lawsuit against YouTube alleging $1 billion in damages. Viacom argued that YouTube provides a service to internet users by doing more than merely allowing trademark infringement attorneysthem to post and distribute copyrighted materials. Viacom’s complaint stated;

“YouTube itself commits the infringing duplication, distribution, public performance, and public display of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works, and that infringement occurs on YouTube’s own website, which is operated and controlled by Defendants, not users.”

Judge Stanton’s summary judgment ruling in favor of Google / YouTube was sensitive to the interaction between the DMCA and internet service providers (ISPs). After iterating that to comply with the requirements of the DMCA an ISP need only remove infringing content once such content has been brought to its attention,  he stated, “the provider must know of the particular case before he can control it,” and “the provider need not monitor or seek out facts indicating such activity.” Accordingly, the district court’s ruling effectively protected Google and YouTube from liability so long as they pull down infringing material, when notified, to remain in compliance with the guidelines of the DMCA.

Shortly after the Google and YouTube received summary judgment at the district court level, both Viacom and Google released statements regarding the ruling;

Plaintiff Viacom said in an e-mailed statement that it plans to appeal the ruling;

“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 went on to elaborate that it was disappointed about the district court’s ruling, but “confident we will win on appeal.” The TV and movie producer stated that, “it is and should be illegal for companies to build their businesses with creative material they have stolen from others.”

Conversely, Defendant Google’s V.P. and general counsel, Kent Walker, commented in a blog posting that;

“The decision follows established judicial consensus that online services like YouTube are protected when they work cooperatively with copyright holders to help them manage their rights online.”

But aside from the decision being an established judicial consensus, Google said the summary judgment ruling was an important victory “for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other.”
Viacom filed papers to appeal the Southern District of New York ruling on 8/11/2010 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

For more Internet law firm and attorney related information and background on the Viacom/Google/YouTube dispute, follow any of the links below;