A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Federal appeals court reinstates Viacom copyright infringement case against YouTube

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Thursday overturned [opinion, PDF] an order dismissing a $1 billion copyright infringement suit against Google, by Viacom [corporate websites], for Google's YouTube [media website; JURIST news archive] service. The lower court initially dismissed [JURIST report] Viacom's suit in June 2010 finding that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [text, PDF] protected Google because it provided a "safe harbor" period for the removal of copyrighted content after notice is given and that Google never disputed any requests from Viacom to remove material. The court further held that the DMCA required Google to have more than a "general awareness" that videos might be posted illegally in order to be found liable. The court of appeals reversed the lower court, however, "because a reasonable jury could conclude that YouTube had knowledge or awareness." Specifically, the court of appeals cited a number of e-mails between Google officials recognizing the presence of copyrighted material on the website, including clips of English Premier League soccer and CNN footage of a shuttle launch, and choosing not to take the material down until a cease and desist letter was received. The court ruled that a reasonable jury could find that Google had knowledge or awareness of specific instances of infringement or that the company was willfully blind to the infringement. Both parties stated that they were pleased with the ruling [NYT report]. Google stated that the court rejected Viacom's interpretation of the DMCA and all that Viacom has left is a "dispute over a tiny percentage of videos long ago removed." Viacom was pleased that the suit was reinstated and that "intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law."

Google is also facing both international and national criticism over its privacy policy. Last month, a Japanese court ordered Google to remove certain search terms [JURIST report] that a Japanese man claimed violated his privacy, by suggesting his name in connection with crimes he did not commit. Also last month, the Commission Nationales de l'Informatque (CNIL) [official website], France's data protection regulator, gave Google three weeks to answer questions [JURIST report] about its new privacy policy [text] as part of a Europe-wide investigation on behalf of all European data protection regulators. The new policy, which took effect earlier in March, may violate European law [JURIST report] according to the EU's Justice Commissioner Vice-President Viviane Reding [official website]. In February, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed [JURIST report] a suit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website], a consumer privacy group, asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] to block Google's proposed privacy policy changes. The new policy allows a user's information to be shared among different Google products, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.