YouTube lawsuit tests copyright law


Google said that by seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for internet communications that infringe on copyrights, Viacom “threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression.”

Google said YouTube was faithful to the requirements of the DMCA, saying the federal law was intended to protect companies such as YouTube as long as they responded properly to content owners’ claims of infringement.

On that score, Viacom says Google has set a terrible example.

In a rewritten lawsuit filed last month, Viacom said YouTube consistently allows unauthorized copies of popular television programming and movies to be posted on its web site and viewed tens of thousands of times.

Viacom said it had identified more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of copyrighted programming—including SpongeBob SquarePants, South Park, and MTV Unplugged episodes and the documentary An Inconvenient Truth—that had been viewed “an astounding 1.5 billion times.”

The company said its count of unauthorized clips represents only a fraction of the content on YouTube that violates its copyrights.

It said Google and YouTube had done “little or nothing” to stop infringement.

“To the contrary, the availability on the YouTube site of a vast library of the copyrighted works of plaintiffs and others is the cornerstone of defendants’ business plan,” Viacom said.

Charlie Makela, a library media specialist for the Arlington County, Va., school district, said school officials there were formulating policies on how teachers can use YouTube clips in everyday classroom lessons. Makela, a media specialist for the Virginia Department of Education for eight years before taking the job in Arlington County, said teachers would have to receive clearance from administrators before they could use a YouTube video to supplement a lecture.

“We know that YouTube has a lot of great video clips,” she said, adding that a ruling in favor of Viacom would mark a setback in the effort to incorporate educational material in schools. “These technologies are changing the way we instruct students. We can no longer stand in front of the classroom and expect to have their undivided attention. … That’s the future of our world.”

Echoing Google’s argument, Klein said that if the court rules in favor of Viacom, the implications of such a decision could discourage other Web 2.0 sites from posting user-generated content for fear of being sued.

“Any action that would result in a scarcity of resources or would create extensive delays [owing] to some sort of ‘content review’ would only result in less use [of these resources] in schools,” Klein said.

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YouTube

Google Inc.

Viacom Inc.

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