YouTube wins Viacom copyright case


In a landmark ruling, a judge has rejected a $1bn lawsuit brought by Viacom accusing Google of allowing copyrighted material on its YouTube service without permission. The US movie and television giant sued Google and YouTube for a billion dollars in March 2007, arguing that they condoned pirated video clips at the website to boost its popularity.

The lawsuit was merged with a similar complaint being pursued by the English Premier League, which said football clips were also routinely posted on YouTube without authorization. Viacom's suit charged that YouTube was a willing accomplicee to "massive copyright infringement" and sought more than one billion dollars in damages.


Viacom's film and television empire includes many youth-or iented networks like MTV and VH1, popular comedy shows such as Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" and the Paramount movie studio.

But the Manhattan judge said Google and YouTube could not be held liable merely for having a "general awareness" that videos might be posted illegally.

But District Judge Louis Stanton said in his ruling: "Mere knowledge of prevalence of such activity in general is not enough. The provider need not monitor or seek out facts indicating such activity."

Media conglomerate Viacom said it planned to appeal against the decision.

Google and YouTube had argued that they were entitled to "safe harbour" protection under digital copyright law because they had insufficient notice of particular alleged offences.

Judge Stanton agreed, saying that when "YouTube was given notices, it removed the material... it is thus protected from liability" under a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

"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," Google general counsel Kent Walker said in a blog post.

"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," Walker said.

Viacom general counsel Michael Fricklas said the company was "disappointed with the judge's ruling, but confident we will win on appeal.

"Copyright protection is essential to the survival of creative industries," he said. "It is and should be illegal for companies to build their businesses with creative material they have stolen from others.

"This case has always been about whether intentional theft of copyrighted works is permitted under existing law and we always knew that the critical underlying issue would need to be addressed by courts at the appellate levels," he said.

"Today's decision accelerates our opportunity to do so."

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