Why Google Beat Viacom's Infringement ClaimsBy http://profile.typepad.com/1237764140s22740 // July 1, 2010 in Courts, Legislation & Public Policy, Publishing, Social Media, Terms of Service
One way of appreciating the strength of the "safe harbor" protections afforded to social media and other sites by the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is the following paragraph from Judge Louis Stanton's order granting summary judgment to Google and YouTube, in the copyright infringement suit brought by Viacom and the Premier League:
"From plaintiffs' submissions on the motions, a jury could find that the defendants not only were generally aware of, but welcomed, copyright-infringing material being placed on their website. Such material was attractive to users, whose increased usage enhanced defendants' income from advertisements displayed on certain pages of the website, with no discrimination between infringing and non-infringing content."
The judge here is applying the federal rule for summary judgment, under which he must find "no genuine issue as to any material fact," so as to be able to decide the case purely as a matter of law (no jury needed then to weigh the facts).
As commonly happens, the judge is "tilting" reality a bit, in favor of the parties he is about to rule against. That is, in this case, he's going ahead and giving Viacom and the Premier League the benefit of any doubts about what the facts are. Here's a re-wording of what he's saying above, to emphasize this point:
- I've looked at what Viacom and the Premier League have to say about the facts in this case.
- Sure enough, a jury could find that Google and YouTube not only knew there to be material on YouTube that violated the copyrights of Viacom and the Premier League, but that Google and YouTube positively welcomed such postings.
- Having copyright-infringing works on YouTube, such as those belonging to Viacom and the Premier League, made YouTube more attractive to visitors.
- Increased traffic in turn meant higher ad revenues for Google, so Google and YouTube profited from showing infringing videos.
- Google and YouTube have made no effort to distinguish between videos that infringe copyright and those that do not.
Of course, the judge is not saying that all of these points are actually true, just that, for purposes of rendering his judgment, he is assuming them to be true. Bottom line: even with such "bad facts" presumed in favor of Viacom and the Premier League, Google and YouTube are still protected by an act of Congress. Specifically, the DMCA.
Second instance recently of government (this time Congress) being on the ball.