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.”

Teaching Copyright

According to the program’s web site, Music Rules is “a free educational program designed to encourage respect for intellectual property and responsible use of the Internet among students in grades 3-8.”
At Ars Technica, Nate Anderson takes a look at the curriculum, which happens to be sponsored by the RIAA, Back to school with RIAA-funded copyright curriculum: “If this sounds more like ‘propaganda’ than ‘education,’ that’s probably because Big Content funds such educational initiatives to decrease what it variously refers to in these curricula as ‘songlifting,’ ‘bootlegging,’ and ‘piracy.”
I tend to think that copyright basics are part of the discussion about information literacy, plagarism and general internet skills that should be taught as part of teaching in the digital age, as copyright is not just recordings, but also text, images and movies.

This one goes to eleven

As a 14 year old, Coleman Hickey made a stop-motion music video of Spinal Tap’s “Tonight I’m Going to Rock You, Tonight” using Legos.
The New York Times reports that Spinal Tap sought to include the video on a new concert DVD, but that Lego denied permission. Lego Rejects a Bit Part in a Spinal Tap DVD

“As final editing was being done on a concert DVD of the tour, which included footage from the video projected on stage, Lego declined to grant permission to use its figures, which are protected by copyright.
“‘We love that our fans are so passionate and so creative with our products,’ said Julie Stern, a spokeswoman for Lego Systems, the United States division of the Lego Group, a Danish company founded in the 1930s. ‘But it had some inappropriate language, and the tone wasn’t appropriate for our target audience of kids 6 to 12.'”

The Times quotes Tap’s attorney, Kia Kamran, saying that the band would have likely prevailed in a copyright infringement suit, because Hickey’s video “does not show the brand’s logo and is satirical,” but the band “did not deem the fight worth the expense.”
Spinal Tap, Lego and copyright infringement together in one story, what could be better?
Variety reports that Warner Brothers and Lego are in talks to move ahead with a Lego film, Warner builds pic with Lego, ”
WB is toying with plans to develop a movie around Lego and its popular building blocks. Scribes Dan and Kevin Hageman are penning the script for the family comedy that will mix live action and animation. Warners is keeping the plot tightly under wraps, but it’s described as an action adventure set in a Lego world.”

If you really want to hear about it

The NYT City Room blog reports that J.D. Salinger won a preliminary injunction in his lawsuit against the writer of , Judge Rules for Salinger in Copyright Suit: “In a 37-page ruling filed on Wednesday, Judge Batts issued a preliminary injunction — indefinitely barring the publication, advertising or distribution of the book in this country — after considering the merits of the case.”
Without reading 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye or the ruling, it’s difficult to see what features made the book an infringing derivative work rather than transformative fair use parody.
Here is the order granting the preliminary injunction, Salinger v. Colting (09-Civ-5095, July 1, 2009)

Subtitles and Meaning

Consumerist, Movies: Dumbed Down Subtitles Ruin US Release Of ‘Let The Right One In’: “What if you started to watch Let The Right One In, a highly acclaimed foreign film from last year, and you discovered the US release had been renamed Open Up!? That’s sort of the experience consumers are having when watching the new release of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray. At some point between the theatrical release and the DVD release, the distributor replaced the original, nuanced English subtitles with dumbed-down ones.”
What was the situation that led up to replacing the original subtitles with second-rate subtities? A licensing issue? Does the filmmaker have a claim against the distributor for mangling the original intent of the film with bad subtitles? Does the structure of film distribution contracts leave the filmmaker with any recourse? Is there a moral rights concern?

Remix Revisited

The NY Public Library event Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy with Lawrence Lessig, Shepard Fairey, Steven Johnson was well-attended and lively discussion, even if the panel was comprised entirely of copyright moderates with no mainstream maximalists or crazy abolitionists.
Here are some rough notes, transcribed and re-ordered from what I wrote down at the panel:
On the continuum of copyright use, the panel talked about a few different uses that can be classified in the following ways:
Incidental and de minimis use. This is where a copyrighted work may appear in another work, either as part of the background. Because of the pervasiveness of copyrighted works all around us, perhaps a more generous threshold than the 6th Circuit’s Bridgeport sampling standard (where any use is an infringing use, no matter how small) is the sensible standard.
Transformative use for commentary, criticism
Here is, obviously, the heart of the panel. If a work is transformative and used for non-commercial or substitutionary purposes, it should be classified– more often than not– as a fair use.
Is mashup creative? Does it shed a light on the works it builds from? Is the law able to judge the merit of the creativity? If a mashup derives its impact from borrowing the hook, core, or the entire narrative structure, shouldn’t there be some level of use that deserves compensation? Where do we draw the line?
But non-commercial transformative uses of copyrighted works online are often lumped in for enforcement purposes with infringing distributions or performances.
How often do we see iconic images in a public space that aren’t commercial images?
Commercial substitution.
Siknce Grokster, P2P usage is up substantially. And what percentage of those uses are simply straight-up infringing uses that substitute for purchases of copies? How much P2P usage is simply plain old piracy of current, popular, copyrighted works? That P2P usage is up since Grokster isn’t necessarily something to celebrate and RIAA lawsuits aren’t necessarily something to ridicule. Widescale piracy does need to be deterred. Whether these lawsuits are
At its best, grassroots activism is actually from the roots, not from above. And it’s going to be messy.
Institutions are made out of people. They’re PEOPLE! PEOPLE!
The NY Times’ Jennifer Schuessler attended and wrote up a succinct summary of the discussion, Steal This Blog Post! “The event felt a little like Burning Man for the so-called Copy Left, with body art to match. Shortly before the talking started, two big guys with big cameras ushered a woman with a cool shoulder tattoo of Fairey’s Obama poster out of her seat. Enforcers from the Associated Press, which claims Fairey violated its copyright, perhaps?”
Here’s the complaint in Fairey’s lawsuit against the AP seeking a declaratory judgment that “Hope” is not an infringing derivative work, Fairey v. AP
The New York Times, Artist Sues The A.P. Over Obama Image
Yesterday, Fresh Air broadcast an interview with Fairey, Shepard Fairey: Inspiration Or Infringement?, “He joins Fresh Air to talk about the image, the dispute, and why he thinks his poster qualifies as a protected work under Fair Use provisions.”
Fairey has inspired a whole genre of Hope-inspired images and parodies, such as a
Watchmen-inspired image

Take a look, it’s in a book

This week, Amazon announced the details of its second generation Kindle e-book reader. One of the new features is text-to-speech software that can read aloud the text of a document stored on the Kindle.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Authors Guild is not happy with the feature, “They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.” New Kindle Audio Feature Causes a Stir
Typically, audio books are derivative works of the original work and are fixed in a recorded medium. The reader adds his or her own interpretation to the text. The work can stand alone as an artistic creation. (See e.g. the accolades that Jim Dale has received for his readings of the Harry Potter books). However, a Kindle 2 owner could foreseeably forego buying the more expensive audiobook to choose to read aloud the e-book.
But is the Kindle text-to-speech reading a derivative work? With the Kindle 2, the computer is generating a reading of the original work dynamically for the portion of that work the Kindle user chooses to have read aloud. Is it ever considered fixed in a tangible medium? If the text-to-speech reading isn’t fixed, then it can not be a derivative work, since a work must be fixed in a tangible medium in order to be copyrightable.
If publishers worry about text-to-speech affecting the market for audiobook rights, perhaps e-book rights (and thus e-books themselves) will become more expensive.
Engadget’s Nilay Patel analyzes, Know Your Rights: Does the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech infringe authors’ copyrights?: “This is actually pretty tough stuff — as far as edge cases go, this one pushes right up against the boundaries of the current law. On one hand, you definitely have the right to read books that you own out loud using whatever tools you want, and on the other, authors definitely have the right to prevent others from selling audio versions of their works. The Kindle’s text-to-speech feature blurs the lines between books and recordings, and that means those two rights are in conflict with each other.”
See also John Siracusa’s take on the past, present and future of the e-book market, The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age – Ars Technica: “A veteran of a former turning of the e-book wheel looks at the past, present, and future of reading books on things that are not books.”
Tangentially related, Apple’s text-to-speech software, MacInTalk, has a major film credit in its resume. In Pixar’s Wall-E, MacInTalk voiced the character Otto.
Update (2/12). Neil Gaiman weighs in with a Quick argument summary, “When you buy a book, you’re also buying the right to read it aloud, have it read to you by anyone, read it to your children on long car trips, record yourself reading it and send that to your girlfriend etc. This is the same kind of thing, only without the ability to do the voices properly, and no-one’s going to confuse it with an audiobook. And that any authors’ societies or publishers who are thinking of spending money on fighting a fundamentally pointless legal case would be much better off taking that money and advertising and promoting what audio books are and what’s good about them with it.”
Evan Brown, Does the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech feature violate copyright law? “Does Aiken have a legitimate gripe? I say it depends on the technology. And the fact that there could be a difference based merely on a technological setup underscores how digital technology has sent some aspects of copyright fumbling towards absurdity.”

Isle of Man Proposes ISP Blanket LIcenses

Is the Isle of Man, which eschews many of the taxes found in other European states, set to become a leader in levying a compulsory tax on internet use to compensate copyright holders for P2P file sharing?
The New York Times reports, Music Industry Imitates Digital Pirates to Turn a Profit, “The government of the Isle of Man announced plans for a system under which consumers with broadband subscriptions would be required to pay a nominal monthly license fee. They could then legally download music from any source, even peer-to-peer services that are outlawed currently.”
MusicAlly live blogged the session at MidemNet where Rob Berry, from the Isle of Man’s government, announced that the Isle of Man would be launching a porposal for a blanket fee for ISP-based music licensing. MidemNet 2009 Liveblog: Music and ISPs debate
Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson reports, Isle of Man gets unlimited music downloads with blanket fee“Few details are available beyond the news that a single blanket fee will cover unlimited download activity for all 80,000 or so Manx residents, with money to then be shared with the music industry. This raises all the obvious questions that compulsory licenses generate, including the fairness of forcing everyone to pay, whether they want to download files or not.”
Update, Jan. 20. Coolfer analyzes the BPI response, Isle of Man Proposes Blanket License for Unlimited Downloading. Not What Industry Wants: “What the BPI wants are label-sanctioned services to be bundled with ISP services and hardware. That means more control on the part of the major copyright owners. The Isle of Man’s proposal, I imagine, is too ‘wild west’ for much of the industry.”

Google Settles with Publishers

Google announces that it settled with the Association of American Publishers, who sued the search engine company in 2005 over its plan to scan and index books that are still protected by copyright. Official Google Blog: New chapter for Google Book Search: “This agreement is truly groundbreaking in three ways. First, it will give readers digital access to millions of in-copyright books; second, it will create a new market for authors and publishers to sell their works; and third, it will further the efforts of our library partners to preserve and maintain their collections while making books more accessible to students, readers and academic researchers.
Here’s the text of the Settlement Agreement
Joe Gratz has more details about the settlement, Settlement Reached in Authors Guild v. Google
And here are some collected reactions from around the web.
Professors and Practitioners:
Larry Lessig, On the Google Book Search agreement: “This is a good deal that could be the basis for something really fantastic. The Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers have settled for terms that will assure greater access to these materials than would have been the case had Google prevailed.”
James Grimmelmann, The Laboratorium: Author’s Guild Settlement Insta-Blogging: “The result of the settlement will be to give Google a license to keep on doing what it’s doing, while allowing the authors to use their now-sharpened knives to sue anyone else who tries to do the same. At that point, of course, Google would be delighted for the authors to succeed, since it keeps the competition at bay.”
Neil Netanel, Balkinization , Google Book Search Settlement: “So in many ways the proposed settlement is a win-win-win-win (for Google, the copyright holders, the libraries, and the public). But there are some causes for concern as well. Perhaps most importantly, the settlement leaves undecided the issue of whether Google’s scanning of the entire books and display of snippets is a fair use. Many observers, including me, believed that the courts would ultimately hold that it is a fair use, and thus set important precedent establishing that such ‘transformative uses’ of copyrighted works — uses that serve the shared goals of copyright and the First Amendment — do not infringe copyright.”
Mike Madison, On Google Book Search: ” The proposal offers a new and larger set of questions, questions that have surrounded Google generally for some time but that the proposal puts into more concrete focus:  Are we seeing the early stages of the beginning of the end of copyright law as we know it?”
Susan Crawford, Google settlement: Changing Defaults: “Yesterday’s settlement agreement is remarkable in many ways.  It’s a proposed settlement of a civil, private lawsuit, but the agreement feels public.  It affects an entire industry, not just the parties concerned.  It sets up a new kind of special-purpose collective rights association (h.t. James Grimmelmann), like ASCAP or BMI.  Instead of Google acting to create access to a great library of books, it seems to point to the creation of a tremendous bookstore.  Perhaps that’s the same thing, but it’s worth thinking about the changed default settings that this arrangement creates.”
Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything, My initial take on the Google-publishers settlement: “this settlement, if it goes through, dodges that great copyright meltdown that I had feared. I did not want to see Google lose this suit in court. And I was confident it would. Google lawyers assured me that they were even more confident they would prevail. And they are smarter than I am. But clearly both sides saw real risk in continuing toward a courtroom showdown.”
C.E. Petit, Scrivener’s Error: “On balance, I think this settlement is not in anybody’s best interests… but, as usual, the actual creators of content will be screwed most thoroughly.”
Lobbying Groups:
Arts+Labs (Current members include AT&T, Viacom, NBC Universal, Cisco, Microsoft and the Songwriters Guild of America), Arts+Labs Statement on the Google Settlement with American Association of Publishers, “This settlement shows that creators’ rights and consumer benefit can go hand-in-hand in the Internet age. It is a victory for consumers and creators alike. The agreement demonstrates that collaboration between the technology community and the creative community can give consumers access to a wealth of resources while also preserving copyright owners’ right to control how their work is distributed online and to earn fair compensation for their creativity.”
Patrick Ross, The Copyright Alliance, A Good Day for Authors: “It is refreshing to see we are finally where we should have been several years ago, developing a marketplace solution that allows copyright owners to grant access in return for compensation and allows those seeking access to written works to obtain it. I should also note that the libraries above participated in the talks and thus are presumably satisfied at the access this agreement gives to their patrons and others interested in access to works both copyrighted and public domain.”
New York Times, Google Settles Suit Over Book-Scanning: “Google plans to take 37 percent of the revenue, leaving 63 percent for publishers and authors. If Google sells ads on pages where previews of scanned books appear, it will split the revenue on the same basis.”
Chris Snyder, Wired, Google Settles Book-Scan Lawsuit, Everybody Wins: “Google’s settlement of a three-year old lawsuit challenging its Book Search program, which scans books and make portions available online, creates a new revenue stream for authors and publishers (and itself) — but the financial benefits are dwarfed by the clear field the company now has to complete an ambitious program to create a global digital library.”
Jessica Guynn, LA Times, Google settles copyright dispute with publishers and authors: “If approved by a Manhattan federal court judge next summer, the settlement has the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry by creating a giant online marketplace that would dramatically increase the volume of literature available to readers and researchers — while compensating authors and publishers.”
Rob Hof, Business Week, Google Settles Book Search Lawsuits with Authors, Publishers: “As a book lover, what I find the coolest thing about the deal is that eventually, I’ll be able to visit most any library and, using at least one terminal that will be set up at each library, view digital versions of these books for free (though I’ll have to pay to print out pages). It’s nice that all the sides managed to agree on something that is demonstrably a good thing for all of us.”

Old Advertising Characters Revived…

… for political satire.
NewTeeVee reports: Super Bowl Ads of Yore Revamped for ’08 Election: “Now, with the election just a week away, we’ve come full circle with two more ads from Super Bowls past revamped for online political purposes. Office Linebacker ‘Terrible’ Terry Tate has returned to put the hurt on fools who don’t vote, while the ‘Wassup’ guys guys have suffered every great malady our nation has gone through over the last eight years.”

Wall Street Journal, ‘Whassup’ Comes Out for Obama – “The parody is raising eyebrows in ad circles, partly because Budweiser’s maker, Anheuser-Busch, can’t do much to stop it. In a departure from normal industry practice, neither Anheuser nor its ad firm, Omnicom Group’s DDB Chicago, own the Whassup slogan or concept. Instead, the brewer paid Mr. Stone roughly $37,000 to license the idea for five years. That deal expired three years ago, says Mr. Stone, who appeared with his buddies in several of the Budweiser Whassup ads.”