Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Get Your Reading Glasses Out: Here Come the YouTube-Viacom Files

Want to lose yourself in the truckloads of paperwork the YouTube-Viacom case has generated? You’re going to get your wish in the near future.

That’s the upshot of a federal judge’s ruling ordering both sides in the slow-moving copyright fight to unseal many of the documents in the case.

I’ve embedded the document below so you can parse it yourself. But the important part is that U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton has told both sides to work together over the next few days and weeks to figure out which of the files the public can see. A good chunk of them should be available within the next 10 days.

This won’t be the entire paper pile the three-year old case has thrown off–the ruling only affects documents both sides have filed in their requests for summary judgment. But it should be most of the interesting stuff, since both sides are trying to marshal as much evidence as they can to persuade Stanton.

The two arguments in a nutshell: Viacom (VIA) is arguing that Google (GOOG) and YouTube violated its copyright when they allowed users to upload and play the cable company’s stuff on the video site. And Google is arguing that federal law protects it from copyright-violation claims.

There is presumably stuff in the file embarrassing to both sides. Google has intimated that Viacom executives knowingly uploaded their own stuff to YouTube, for instance, while the Viacom folks hint that YouTube management knowingly uploaded its stuff onto the site.

But as CNET’s Greg Sandoval explained yesterday, Google’s attorneys asked the court to keep the documents sealed for another three months, while Viacom’s team wants them unsealed in two weeks.

So that makes Stanton’s ruling is a small victory for Viacom. But only a small one: The status of the documents won’t have any bearing on the case itself.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work