Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Viacom, YouTube Make Their Case: Read Their Secret Papers Here

UPDATE: Here’s my summary of the documents — great morsels, no smoking gun.

And we’re off! Court filings in the YouTube-Viacom suit were just unsealed and both sides are distributing them now.

This post will be a work in progress as I ingest the paperwork. I’ll link to places where you can sort through the files for yourself, and I’ll be posting what I can on this site as well. Most important, I’ll try to interpret the documents and pull out the most interesting stuff.

As we start, a reminder of what we’re looking at: Both sides are releasing their legal arguments and supporting evidence in the three-year-old case. In short, Viacom (VIA) says that Google’s (GOOG) video site infringed on its copyright and wants a billion dollars in damages; YouTube says the site is protected by federal law.

Slightly longer version: Viacom is arguing that YouTube is a giant version of Napster and Grokster, the music file-sharing sites knocked down in earlier court rulings. That makes it important for the cable network to show that YouTube executives knew users were uploading licensed work and that the executives were encouraging it.

YouTube, meanwhile, is arguing that the company has always tried to discourage users from uploading licensed stuff and has gone to great lengths to take down stuff that copyright owners don’t want there. The video service also argues that Viacom has uploaded plenty of its stuff to YouTube on its own and continues to do so. Key part of Google’s defense, in plain English:

Given Viacom’s own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site. But Viacom thinks YouTube should somehow have figured it out. The legal rule that Viacom seeks would require YouTube–and every Web platform–to investigate and police all content users upload, and would subject those web sites to crushing liability if they get it wrong.

It’s important to remember that all of this is already old news to the U.S. District Court judge who will rule in the case. While this may seem like a reality show, the public doesn’t get a vote on this one.

Now let’s get to the filings. Here is Viacom’s request for summary judgment, followed by its “statement of undisputed facts”–essentially supporting evidence. Viacom is also posting most of the documents and depositions here, though some items have been redacted.


Viacom Summary Judgment Motion


Viacom Statement of Undisputed Facts

And here’s a link to YouTube’s statement. The company’s legal memorandum follows:


20100318_google_viacom_youtube_memorandum

Below is a statement from YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, which amounts to a legal version of a press release. Note the many references he makes to his desire to keep the site free of copyrighted stuff–at least initially.


C Hurley Declaration


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus