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Judge Sides With Google In $1 Billion Viacom Case

Publication Date: 
June 24, 2010
San Jose Mercury News
Mike Swift

Lecturer and executive director of the Fair Use Project Anthony Falzone is quoted on a federal ruling in favor of Google in a copyright lawsuit filed by Viacom over user-posted videos on YouTube. Mike Swift of the San Jose Mercury reports:

A federal judge Wednesday found in favor of Google in a $1 billion copyright lawsuit filed by Viacom over videos posted on YouTube, a case that legal experts said could have dramatically altered the rules for user-posted videos, music and other content on the Web had the ruling gone the other way.

Instead, Judge Louis Stanton of New York delivered a summary judgment that essentially endorses current practices, finding that YouTube was in line with the federal Digital Millennial Copyright Act when it promptly removed copyright videos from cable channels such as Comedy Central and Nickelodeon when it was notified by Viacom.


Viacom had argued that Google, which bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, had violated the copyright act by knowingly hosting copyright material. A key issue in the case, said Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at Stanford Law School, is what level of knowledge on the part of a website that it was hosting copyright material would destroy its "safe harbor" protection under the act.

"This case has always been about who bears the burden and who bears the cost of finding the infringing content," said Falzone, whose group at Stanford deals with copyright law issues. The court ruling, he said, seems to place the burden on Viacom and other copyright holders to notify sites such as YouTube of specific pieces of offending content.


The decision is important to Silicon Valley, Falzone said, because it "could be a terrifying and unmanageable potential liability" if sites such as YouTube and Facebook were responsible for vetting the vast amounts of content uploaded to their sites.

"What the DMCA has done more than anything is that it has cleared the way for people to create innovative technologies like YouTube, and to some extent like Facebook," he said.