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Attempts by Big Content to accuse YouTube of piracy have crashed into the iceberg which is the US legal system.
For a while now, Viacom had been hoping to squeeze a billion dollars from YouTube claiming that it allowed pirated content on the site.
So far it has gone nowhere, with mostly orchestrated legal manoeuvrings in the dark. According to the legal blog Recording Industry vs People, the plaintiffs had previously convinced the Second Circuit to remand the case to the district court for determination of some factual points relating to specific videos.
Its cunning plan came unstuck when district judge Louis Stanton resolved everything in favour of YouTube, and once again dismissed the case.
The case is crucial because Stanton has ruled that YouTube did not have knowledge or awareness of any specific piracy. It also did not engage in “wilful blindness” towards any specific infringement.
He also ruled that YouTube did not induce its users to commit copyright infringement or otherwise interact with its users to a point where it might be said to have participated in anything they might have done.
Essentially the judge has told Viacom and other Big Content members that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act actually does mean what it says and there is an element of safe haven protection in situations like YouTube.
The $1 billion lawsuit kicked off 2007, coincidently not long after Google acquired the company for $1.65 billion. Viacom essentially argued that YouTube was knowingly allowing copyrighted material to be posted to its site. YouTube, on the other hand, said that it was merely a platform that users could add content, and that it would take down anything that Viacom, or any other content provider, asked.
In 2010 a judge ruled in YouTube’s favour, granting a summary motion to dismiss the case. But an appeals court reversed the decision, sending the case back to court. This time the judge decided that YouTube was protected by the DMCA safe harbour provision.
While Viacom and YouTube have been working together of late, it seems that Viacom is not giving up yet. In a statement, Viacom said it will appeal the ruling because it ignores the opinions of the higher courts and completely disregards the rights of creative artists.
It wants a jury to weigh up the facts of this case and what it calls the overwhelming evidence that YouTube wilfully infringed on Viacom rights.