U.S. Judge Rules for Veoh in Infringement Case

Jan 8, 2009 4:30 PM PST
LOS ANGELES — A federal judge recently ruled in favor of Internet TV service Veoh in the copyright infringement suit filed by Universal Music Group, giving Veoh the most recent of several significant legal victories.

UMG originally filed suit against Veoh in 2007 on the grounds that Veoh, a website that hosts user-generated content, was liable for and benefited from the infringement of its copyrights.

Veoh responded in its defense by claiming eligibility for the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which generally state that video-sharing websites are not required to ask users to submit a copyright or proof of ownership.

“DMCA works well if the site is in the U.S.,” Brandon “Fight the Patent” Shalton, told XBIZ. “The site has up to 48 hours to remove the content once they have received notice. But it gets more tricky, because how does the website know the person telling them to take something down is the copyright owner and not the competitor trying to knock out his competitor’s content?”

Veoh claimed in its response that UMG had failed to provide “any information about the alleged infringement that would allow Veoh to adequately assess UMG’s threats,” but UMG countered the argument, claiming that Veoh did not qualify for safe harbor provisions on the grounds that some functions of Veoh’s software, including those that create copies and deliver videos to users, were ineligible for protection.

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz rejected this argument and ruled in Veoh’s favor because “Veoh, he found, had no ability to prescreen content, and there was no evidence that Veoh fostered infringement for profit,” according to DRM Watch, a website that publishes analyses of all things DRM.

“We are gratified that the court has denied UMG's attempt to bar the use of safe harbor afforded to us under the copyright laws,” a spokesperson for Veoh told XBIZ. “We have always believed that Veoh is operating clearly within the bounds of the law and demonstrates the utmost respect to all copyright owners.”

Veoh was victorious in a similar copyright infringement case against gay adult studio Titan Media last August, and Viacom and YouTube are still tied up in a huge legal battle over Viacom’s complaint that YouTube is responsible for “massive intentional copyright infringement.” Veoh’s recent court wins are thought to have “interesting implications” for the Viacom vs. YouTube case, according to DRM Watch.

“The court outcome just reinforces that copyright owners need to police their own content, which is what the DMCA law already states,” said Shalton, founder of T3Report.com. “Veoh isn’t getting any bonus points from any content producer for its actions. Veoh is doing it for its own internal morals and/or public perception.”

Shalton recommends that to improve the situation, “content producers should put watermarks on their videos in case the videos do show up on other websites [so] they can at least get some kind of branding, maybe even some type-in traffic to their website for those who want to see more of the content. If you make the content yourself as an amateur, you should watermark, as well.”

Using specific technology that is able to “look for the matching ‘DNA’ of other movies,” is also a means of enforcing copyright protection, according to Shalton. One such technology is digital fingerprinting, which involves branding video files with hashes designed for tracking material that contains infringed content.

Veoh said in its complaint against UMG that it “goes beyond the standard measures” of protecting copyrighted materials by making use of digital fingerprinting,

“Once Veoh receives a notice that a video contains allegedly infringing material, Veoh removes the individual video and prevents the future uploading of any other video having the same hash,” the complaint said. “Veoh then terminates user access to any existing files containing the subject hash.”

Officials from Titan Media and UMG could not be reached for comment.

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