YouTube finds shelter in the DMCA §512(c) Safe Harbor

In granting summary judgment for YouTube in Viacom v. YouTube, Judge Louis Stanton found that YouTube complied with the notice and takedown requirements set out in the DMCA §512(c) Safe Harbor provision. By promptly taking down infringing works upon notice by the copyright owners, YouTube acted as service provider is required to in order to qualify for §512(c) safe harbor protection.
A general knowledge that users may be using the site to upload copyrighted material does not itself lead to liability under the safe harbor. “General knowledge that infringement is ‘ubiquitous’ does not impose a duty on the service provider to monitor or search its service for infringements.” After all, how is a host supposed to affirmatively distinguish 3rd party works uploaded with consent from ones uploaded as infringements or others uploaded as fair use without notice from the copyright owner?
The ruling distinguishes YouTube from P2P services like Grokster and Limewire: YouTube was found to be prompt at complying with DMCA notices by promptly taking down infringing works.
Kent Walker, Vice President and General Counsel, Google, YouTube Blog: YouTube wins case against Viacom: “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. 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.”
Eric Goldman, Technology & Marketing Law Blog: YouTube Gets Decisive Win in Viacom/FAPL Case: “Now, the case is also noteworthy because it hands YouTube a clean and decisive win on the DMCA 512(c) safe harbor. The ruling basically says that the current industry standard practices of notice-and-takedown for user-caused copyright infringement satisfies the safe harbor. Although this seems like an uncontroversial result when stated like that, the reality is that copyright owners have repeatedly angled to get a better deal than Congress gave them in 512. This case will squelch many of those copyright owner requests to force service providers to go beyond current industry-standard practices. Of course, we have to see how the opinion fares on appeal.”
Susan Crawford, The Congressional deal holds: “News today that Judge Stanton (SDNY) has granted YouTube’s motion for summary judgment in Viacom v. YouTube should not be all that surprising.  In the DMCA, the burden of identifying infringing files was clearly placed on the copyright owner in exchange for a commitment by platform providers to take materials down once they received notice.  That was the deal.  If those platform providers wanted to stay like little boats safely inside the harbor of protection from liability, they had to take files down.  But they didn’t have to affirmatively hunt for infringing items.”
Randy Picker,, Viacom v. YouTube: When Is It Storage? When Is It a Public Performance?: “The issue in the case focuses on the scope of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor for online service providers set forth in section 512 of the copyright statute. Section 512 is pretty chunky but most of the court’s analysis focuses on section 512(c). That subsection insulates service providers from liability ‘for infringement of copyright by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider’ if the service provider can meet a three-part standard set forth in that subsection.”
Evan Brown, Internet Cases, YouTube victorious in copyright case brought by Viacom: “Simply stated, the DMCA protects online service providers from liability for copyright infringement arising from content uploaded by end users if a number of conditions are met. Among those conditions are that the service provider ‘not have actual knowledge that the material or an activity using the material on the system or network is infringing,’ or in the absence of such actual knowledge, ‘is not aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent.’”
David Kravets, Wired Google Wins Viacom Copyright Lawsuit, “‘Today’s decision isn’t just about YouTube,’ said Center for Democracy & Technology lawyer David Sohn. ‘Without this decision, user generated content would dry up and the internet would cease to be a participatory medium.'”
James Poniewozik, Time Tuned In, YouTube vs. Viacom: Everybody Wins?: “TV networks discovered that the best response to people posting video online was not lawsuits, but providing what their customers obviously wanted, and providing it better. They may not have solved the problem of monetizing online video, though they’re getting closer, but what they’re doing now beats playing whack-a-mole with uploaders.”
Farhad Majoo, Slate, The court was right to side with YouTube over Viacom: “Stanton’s ruling resolves a long-standing argument between Web companies and entertainment companies on the question of how to police the Web. The debate boils down to this: Web companies want most content that people post online to be presumed innocent; if a copyright owner comes along and says that a certain video is illegal, then a Web site must take it down, but otherwise it stays up. Entertainment companies have been pushing courts to impose the opposite standard: Much of what people post online ought to be considered infringing, they argue, and Web companies should take steps to prove that the content is legitimate before they let it stay online.”
Miguel Helft, The New York Times, Judge Sides With Google in Viacom Suit Over Videos: “The ruling in the closely watched case could have major implications for the scores of Internet sites, like YouTube and Facebook, that are largely built with content uploaded by their users.”
The Daily Show’s Demetri Martin reports on the filing in 2007.
6/27/10: Ben Sheffner, Copyrights and Campaigns, Viacom v. YouTube: A disappointing decision, but how important? “Put aside, for a moment, whatever you may think of Judge Stanton’s ultimate holding absolving YouTube of copyright infringement. Purely as a matter of judicial crafting and analysis, I found the court’s order to be extremely cursory. While I certainly don’t equate quality with quantity, this opinion was just too damn short to do justice to the complex, heavily-litigated issues in the case.”