The Southern District of New York has issued a widely anticipated decision in the Viacom v. YouTube case, specifically, summary judgment in favor of YouTube. For those unfamiliar with this case, Viacom sought $1 billion in damages for YouTube’s contributory and direct copyright infringement. Viacom alleged that YouTube had actual knowledge of general acts of infringement on its video upload service. In rebuttal, YouTube contended that it could not be held liable for contributory copyright infringement (or direct copyright infringement) because it removed infringing content from its website when notified of specific offenses by content holders. Further, YouTube also adopted a policy to ban users from the service after three offenses.
The Southern District of New York ultimately held that Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s language requiring “actual knowledge” of infringement or infringing “facts or circumstances” requires knowledge of specific infringements of particular identifiable items and not just a generalized knowledge of the fact that infringement may or may not be occurring on system. The court also held that the DMCA places the burden of notifying the service of copyright infringement on the copyright holder and not on the service itself. As such, an Internet service provider does not need to active police its system for infringement.
Viacom has, of course, stated that it will appeal. It will be interesting to see whether the 2nd Circuit will take the case. If you are a service provider that needs advice on how you can limit your liability for copyright infringement, or if you are content producer that believes that your rights have been infringed, contact one of our expert copyright infringement lawyers today at 866.936.7447.