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DMCA Protects Video Site, Judge Says

In what is being hailed as a major victory for video-hosting sites, a federal judge in Los Angeles has dismissed Universal Music Group's copyright case against Veoh, a video site that allows users to share videos. Finding that Veoh qualifies for protection under the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz granted summary judgment dismissing Universal's suit.

Universal's lawsuit contended that Veoh was aware of infringing material on its site and failed to remove it promptly. "But Veoh has shown that when it did acquire knowledge of allegedly infringing material -- whether from DMCA notices, informal notices, or other means -- it expeditiously removed such material," Matz concluded. The burden of policing copyright infringement rests on the copyright owner, he said, and a service provider is not obligated to affirmatively investigate "red flags."

The judge also rejected Universal's contention that Veoh had actual knowledge of copyright infringement because it "knew that it was hosting an entire category of content -- music -- that was subject to copyright protection." To that, Matz said:

If merely hosting user-contributed material capable of copyright protection were enough to impute actual knowledge to a service provider, the section 512(c) safe harbor would be a dead letter because vast portions of content on the internet are eligible for copyright protection. UMG’s theory would also make the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown provisions completely superfluous because any service provider that hosted copyrighted material would be disqualified from the section 512(c) safe harbor regardless of whether the copyright holder gave notice or whether the service provider otherwise acquired actual or constructive knowledge of specific infringements.

This is the second time a federal court has thrown out a copyright case against Veoh under the DMCA. Observers say the ruling's greater significance may be in what it foretells about a similar lawsuit brought by Viacom against YouTube.

"[T]his ruling could prove to be influential on the judge in the YouTube case, since Veoh's policies are very similar to YouTube's," EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann told Ars Technica. YouTube's chief counsel Zahavah Levine echoed von Lohman, telling CNET News, "This decision reaffirms the judicial consensus and what we've known all along: the DMCA protects services like YouTube."

But Viacom's General Counsel Michael Fricklas said his case is different. "Our case is in a different forum, not bound by the Veoh case. We remain confident that we will prevail on the law and the facts. Today's decision contradicts the consensus that sites and copyright owners share the responsibility to use readily available tools to minimize copyright infringements."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 15, 2009 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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