Is YouTube guilty of copyright violations? No, said a New York judge in a landmark decision yesterday that Google's lawyers have called a victory for "billions of people around the world."
Google, YouTube's owners, were being sued by media giant Viacom for $1 billion as a result of what Viacom believed was a slow response to taking down user-generated videos of material Viacom owned. Judge Louis Stanton, however, ruled that YouTube qualified for "safe harbor" from liability, which offers legal protection to ISPs that respond "expeditiously" to notices from copyright owners. In a statement published to YouTube's official blog, Kent Walker, Vice President and General Counsel of Google, called the ruling,
an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We’re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world.
Echoing that, David Sohn of the Center for Democracy & Technology said,
Today's decision isn't just about YouTube... Without this decision, user generated content would dry up and the Internet would cease to be a participatory medium.
Unsurprisingly, Viacom disagrees, with general counsel Michael Fricklas releasing a statement that included this section:
Copyright protection is essential to the survival of creative industries. It is, and should be, illegal for companies to build their businesses with creative material they have stolen from others. Without this protection, investment in the development of art and entertainment would be discouraged, and the many artists and producers who devote their lives to creating it would be hurt. Copyright protection is also critical to the web -- because consumers love professional content and because legitimate websites shouldn’t have to compete with pirates... YouTube and Google stole hundreds of thousands of video clips from artists and content creators, including Viacom, building a substantial business that was sold for billions of dollars. We believe that should not be allowed by law or common sense.
Viacom, of course, are seeking appeal against the decision. Ongoing...