Viacom gets its ass handed to it again by a court in its YouTube lawsuit

For years, Viacom has been embroiled in a bizarre lawsuit against Google, asserting that Google had a duty to figure out exactly which videos uploaded by it users infringed on Viacom's copyrights and stop them from showing (Viacom's internal memos showed that they themselves had paid dozens of companies to secretly upload Viacom videos disguised to look as leaked internal footage to YouTube, and that the company's executives had viewed the suit as a way to seize control of YouTube from Google and run it themselves).

Now, yet another court has told Viacom that its legal theory about the duty of online service providers to proactively police its users' uploads is totally, unequivocally WRONG. Viacom has pledged to appeal.

In a ruling released today, the court gave a total victory to Google/YouTube, granting it summary judgment, saying that YouTube was protected from claims of infringement via the DMCA's safe harbors, and mocking Viacom's legal theories at the same time. Might as well jump right in with some quotes, including the money quote that Viacom's legal theory is "extravagant." Elsewhere the judge calls it "ingenious."

Viacom's argument that the volume of material and "the absence of record evidence that would allow a jury to decide which clips-in-suit were specifically known to senior YouTube executives" (Viacom Opp. pp. 9-10) combine to deprive YouTube of the statutory safe harbor, is extravagant. If, as plaintiffs assert, neither side can determine the presence or absence of specific infringements because of the volume of material, that merely demonstrates the wisdom of the legislative requirement that it be the owner of the copyright, or his agent, who identifies the infringement by giving the service provider notice. 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A). The system is entirely workable: in 2007 Viacom itself gave such notice to YouTube of infringements by some 100,000 videos, which were taken down by YouTube by the next business day. See 718 F. Supp. 2d 514 at 524.

Thus, the burden of showing that YouTube knew or was aware of the specific infringements of the works in suit cannot be shifted to YouTube to disprove. Congress has determined that the burden of identifying what must be taken down is to be on the copyright owner, a determination which has proven practicable in practice.

This was the crux of Viacom's argument. That because they could show a lot of infringement, and here and there point to some evidence that some people at YouTube might have known of general infringement, then the burden should be on YouTube. But the court clearly calls them on this, noting that's not what the law says, nor does it make sense. Instead, under the law, the burden is on Viacom and that makes sense.

YouTube Wins Yet Another Complete Victory Over Viacom; Court Mocks Viacom's Ridiculous Legal Theories [Mike Masnick/TechDirt]


  1. And yet again we see a media company pouring cash out the door trying to fight reality and turn back time.
    At what point will they discover that they have wasted more money “fighting piracy” than they ever actually lost?  That they kept listening to people who told them how piracy was so very very bad, while they collected large sums of cash selling them snakeoil…

      1. Not the first time I’ve said it, and I have pointed out that the companies refuse to abandon the course they have been on because another few million will finally make it work this time…

        For fun look at this chain…
        Dtecnet (someone with ties to IFPI (?) founded and was bought out)
        was acquired by
        MarkMonitor (we protect your reputation online!)
        was acquired by
        Reuters Thompson (or Thompson Reuters I flip words)

        They have the contract providing the “strikes” for the US Six Strikes program, using the tech of Dtecnet.  CCI is funded by **AA membership and ISPs, hired MarkMonitor.  Then they hired Stroz to review the tech, pay no attention to the $675,000 Stroz had been paid in the past by the RIAA to lobby for them, or that Stroz was gaining a long term contract to oversee the system and make sure it was still “perfect”.

        Dtecnet was the company hired in the lawsuit Roadshow vs iiNet in Australia.  Often called AFACT vs iiNet  (AFACT that wonderful home grown lobbying group funded by the MPAA).  Dtecnet created and seeded torrents of copyrighted material to collect IP addresses to force a change in the law in Oz.  So torrents are destroying the content industry… so we paid someone to make more of them.

        CCI appeared on CSPAN at a hearing or something and showed how they were collecting IP addresses.  They are using the Vuze client, which in its terms of service ban using the client to spy on other users or use it commercially.

        So they are willing to violate the rights of others, throw money at people who actually made the problem worse, and think that 4 years and millions to come up with 6 Strikes was a better idea than looking at the world as 1 global market instead of divided portions that have no contact.

        This is a failure of their leadership, they think its 1950 and they can just buy another law to protect the monopoly and keep control.  Imagine how much cooler the world would be today if they weren’t spending millions to kill or cripple neat new ideas that might have a way to hurt their imaginary rights to control how you use content you paid for.

  2. So are they paying Google’s legal costs too?  Are they paying costs for court time wasted given that their lawsuits are basically frivolous?  I hope so.

  3. A hundred… THOUSAND videos were taken down from a single copyright holder, six years ago?

    By now the numbers must be well into the millions. And no wonder that it’s impossibly hard to speak to any human about account lockings and such. The numbers are just on an unimaginable scale.

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