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Viacom and YouTube Fight Continues

Published onMay 03, 2012
Viacom and YouTube Fight Continues

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived lawsuits by Viacom Inc. and the English Premier League over the use of copyrighted videos that were appearing on YouTube without Viacom’s permission.  The Court sent the case back to a lower court to determine whether Google and YouTube “purposefully ignored the infringing material that was posted on the site.”  Although the Court did not rule against YouTube, it does require YouTube to defend itself in the lower court and show that it did not have prior knowledge that users were uploading copyrighted materials on its site.

In 2007, Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google and YouTube to stop users from uploading and viewing copyrighted materials owned by Viacom.  In its complaint, Viacom alleged that Google had engaged in “brazen” copyright infringement and that over “150,000 unauthorized clips of [Viacom’s] copyrighted programming” appeared on YouTube and had “been viewed an astounding 1.5 billion times.”  The complaint went on to allege that YouTube “engage[d] in, promote[d] and induce[d]” the infringement.

Although YouTube only needs to defend in the lower court, Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara School of Law, views the decision as a significant loss for YouTube and Google: “It’s hard to characterize this as anything other than a loss for Google, and potentially a significant one.  It has given new life to a case that Google thought was dead.”  Predictably, YouTube does not see this ruling as a major blow and maintains that “all that is left of the Viacom lawsuit . . . is a dispute over a tiny percentage of videos long ago removed . . . Nothing in this decision impacts the way YouTube is operating.”

* Rob Abb is a third-year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law and is President of the International Law Society. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Political Science and Asian Studies from the University of Michigan. Upon graduation in 2012, Mr. Abb plans to practice international law. He is spending his last semester in Washington, D.C., interning at the Federal Communications Commission.

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