A federal judge in New York has sided with YouTube in a $1 billion copyright case brought by the media giant Viacom, ruling that the video-sharing website had done all that was required to take copyrighted material down from its site.
Viacom, which owns MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures and other entertainment brands, argued that YouTube knew that Viacom's copyrighted videos were up on the site and that it was drawing traffic and profiting from the material. But U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton found that YouTube, which is owned by Google, had lived up to its responsibilities under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law offers immunity to service providers as long as they take down protected material when the copyright owner gives them notice.
Facebook, eBay Inc. and Yahoo Inc. were among the Internet powerhouses that had rallied on Google's behalf in saying that the company should not be liable because the 1998 law offers immunity when service providers promptly remove illegal materials submitted by users once they are notified of a violation.
In his 30-page ruling, Stanton said massive volumes of evidence submitted in the case had convinced him that YouTube did what it needed to do to fall under the "safe harbor" provisions of the copyright law.
In dismissing the lawsuit before a trial, Stanton noted that Viacom had spent several months accumulating about 100,000 videos violating its copyright and then sent a mass takedown notice on Feb. 2, 2007. By the next business day, Stanton said, YouTube had removed virtually all of them.
Stanton said there's no dispute that "when YouTube was given the [takedown] notices, it removed the material."
Viacom said it will appeal, calling the ruling "fundamentally flawed." But some experts say the media giant is unlikely to prevail and is bringing the appeal to pressure Congress into changing the law.
NPR's Laura Sydell contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press