YouTube to Veoh: Thanks for the Legal Help. No Hard Feelings if We Put You Out of Business, OK?
Looks like Google has a new club with which to smite Viacom and the $1 billion lawsuit it’s brought against YouTube. A federal judge has ruled that online video-hosting site Veoh is not guilty of copyright infringement for material uploaded by users in a case that has marked similarities to Viacom’s against Google and YouTube. IO Group, whose videos had been uploaded without permission to Veoh, claimed that the company was liable for those infringing videos. Specifically, it argued that Veoh, because it transcodes those videos to Flash before hosting them, does not qualify for the safe harbor provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which would otherwise have shielded it from liability as long it removed infringing material when alerted by a copyright holder.
The judge disagreed. And his reasons for doing so will undoubtedly come into play in the Viacom case and others as well. “Veoh has simply established a system whereby software automatically processes user-submitted content and recasts it in a format that is readily accessible to its users,” the judge wrote. “Veoh preselects the software parameters for the process from a range of default values set by the third-party software. … But Veoh does not itself actively participate or supervise the uploading of files. Nor does it preview or select the files before the upload is completed. Instead, video files are uploaded through an automated process which is initiated entirely at the volition of Veoh’s users.”
Google (GOOG) was understandably quite pleased with the ruling: “It is great to see the Court confirm that the DMCA protects services like YouTube that follow the law and respect copyrights,” Zahavah Levine, YouTube’s chief counsel,” said in a statement.
Viacom (VIA) was equally displeased, understandably. “Even if the Veoh decision were to be considered by other courts, that case does nothing to change the fact that YouTube is a business built on infringement that has failed to take reasonable measures to respect the rights of creators and content owners,” the company said in a statement. “Google and YouTube have engaged in massive copyright infringement–conduct that is not protected by any law, including the DMCA.”