Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recording Industry vs The People initiates partial coverage of Viacom v. YouTube

Although it is not strictly on topic for this blog, we have decided to initiate partial coverage of the case of Viacom v. YouTube. (By 'partial coverage' I mean that I will be selective, picking out some of the most important events, rather than attempt to be exhaustive.)

Viacom v. YouTube presents important issues in the war being waged by large content owners to try and shut down the internet as we know it ( a war that is familiar to anyone who has read up on the RIAA's creative "making available" and "offer to distribute" theories in the RIAA v. The People cases ).

YouTube's recent filing -- an answer to the amended complaint -- has received a lot of press attention, but I noticed that the press accounts did not provide the readers with actual copies of the litigation document.

That's where we come in.

YouTube's answer contains this statement, which pretty well sums up what is at stake:

Viacom’s lawsuit challenges the protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") that Congress enacted a decade ago to encourage the development of services like YouTube. Congress recognized that such services could not and would not exist if they faced liability for copyright infringement based on materials users uploaded to their services. It chose to immunize these services from copyright liability provided they are properly responsive to notices of alleged infringement from content owners.

Looking at the online world today, there is no question that Congress made the correct policy choice. Legitimate services like YouTube provide the world with free and authorized access to extraordinary libraries of information that would not be available without the DMCA -- information created by users who have every right to share it. YouTube fulfills Congress’s vision for the DMCA. YouTube also fulfills its end of the DMCA bargain, and indeed goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works. By seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for internet communications, Viacom's complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression.
Order and opinion denying plaintiffs the right to allege punitive damages in addition to statutory damages*
Amended complaint*
Answer to amended complaint*

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

(Note: The excellent Groklaw site has perceived the same need, and has posted copies of the documents, as well as *txt versions. And of course, Groklaw's usual outstanding commentary and discussion is there too.)

Commentary & discussion:

Groklaw
Slashdot
InfoWorld




Keywords: digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property

8 comments:

Lior said...

You should note the parallel coverage on Groklaw, which includes transcribed (text) versions of the documents.

Ray Beckerman said...

Thanks, lior!

I love Groklaw.

Alter_Fritz said...

since PJ has an eye on that one, may I suggest that you direct one watchful eye loosely in the event something spectacular happens in the case where EMI "runs amok" in EMI vs. MP3tunes?

http://www.emigroup.com/

http://www.mp3tunes.com/

http://michaelrobertson.com/archive.php?minute_id=259

Michael Donnelly said...

I'm glad you're picking this up, Ray. I look forward to your thoughts on it.

I read the answer today and it was very interesting. Of course, it won't get all that meaty until there are some motions and responses and replies. Just seeing the list of defenses makes me want to see the MSJ's and how both sides frame their arguments.

It should be an epic one. I certainly hope the court agrees with YouTube in this situation, given the further chilling effects of a precedent the other way. Who knows how many cool devices and programs we've never seen (nor will we ever) simply because of the specter of litigation from these guys.

matt said...

Reading Viacom's complaint, I can only say: Ah, what a strange post-Grokster copyright litigation landscape this has become.

Reading Google's answer, I can only say: What, no counterclaims? Viacom, the Internet's most notorious DMCA takedown notice spam mill, should have at least a 512(f) claim heading its way.

Well, anyway, good for Google, getting punitive damages off the table. I don't have to be a lawyer to know that relieves some of the pressure to settle. And since Google has an ideology in opposition to Viacom's business interests, and the resources to fight for that ideology, it's almost certain this case will produce a precedent setting decision. And just maybe put a lid on the Grokster effect.

I'm not sure going for a jury trial is a good move for Google, though. Everyone understands that Viacom is big business, employs a lot of Americans, and occasionally creates great films. But not everyone understands what YouTube is good for, technologically, economically, or culturally. So I'll be crossing my fingers for Google to win a pre-trial judgment or dismissal -- I think they'll need it.

hsm said...

Good work Ray! The more dinosaurs that we track the more un-wanted attention they receive. Although I would point out to others(Ray you already know this) that the trouble with dinosaurs is that even if dying, they thrash their tails about so much that there is a lot of collateral damage.

--hsm

Anonymous said...

It should be known that Viacom knows perfectly well what the law says, especially the DMCA which they paid congress to create, and are trying to test the water in the courts to ease the burden of copyright enforcement.

What makes this case interesting is that Viacom (as a surrogate for the rest of the entertainment industry) is attempting to ignore the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA. Youtube actually does a pretty good job of dealing with the DMCA takedown notices, as evidenced by complaints on both sides (content owners and content uploaders) of an unfair system.

Also of note: Viacom wants to claim distribution, because 3rd party software is not kept at bay. It will be nearly impossible to prove that Google is liable for any distribution.

Q

matt said...

Re: Q on the DMCA

More than one entity have their fingers in the congressional pie. True, the entertainment industry was behind most of the DMCA, but it's almost certainly ISPs, cable companies, etc., that lobbied for the "safe harbor" provision.