YouTube Victorious Again in Suit Against Viacom

Apr 23, 2013 10:30 AM PST

NEW YORK — YouTube emerged victorious from yet another legal battle with Viacom last Thursday over claims of copyright infringement after a federal judge ruled that the Google-owned company could not be held liable without proof of its knowledge of particular instances of infringement.

U.S. Judge Louis Stanton once again affirmed YouTube’s protection under the safe harbors of Section 512 delineated by the Digital Millennium Copyright  Act after issuing a similar ruling in 2010.

At stake in the latest case was Viacom’s legal theories of “willful blindness” and related issues of cognizant-dependent infringement liability. In other words, Viacom sought to prove that YouTube was aware of infringement violations and/or purposefully ignored them.

 "The burden of showing that YouTube knew or was aware of the specific infringements of the works in the suit cannot be shifted to YouTube to disprove," Stanton said.

The battle between the two media monoliths has been raging since 2007 when Viacom filed a suit against the Google-owned company. The five-year-old case purportedly cost the two parties more than $200 million in attorney fees.

The case bodes well for some adult tube sites that have become a prevalent and lucrative business model and have long-sought protection under safe harbor protections, according to adult industry attorney Corey Silverstein, who also noted that porn tube site operators should remain vigilant against copyright infringement accusations.

“While this ruling solidifies safe-harbor protections for a service provider pursuant to the DMCA; tube site operators need to be very careful in adhering to the requirements of the DMCA in order to avoid losing safe harbor protections,” Silverstein said.  “Every tube site operator should consult with an attorney who is well familiar with DMCA and its stringent requirements.”                          

While tube sites — porn and mainstream — may flourish under the protection afforded by Stanton’s latest ruling, not all adult content producers are rejoicing.

Many adult content producers and purveyors voiced their concern about the DMCA’s failure to safeguard their intellectual property at XBIZ 360°'s Digital Media Conference held in January.

According to attorney Gill Sperlein, adult website owners are especially at risk for infringement because of a judicial bias against adult content — and the financial toll on producers and distributors can be damaging.

"Explain the truth behind this — educate and be vocal about the issues because judges and their clerks read the blogs, and typically judges have a very anti-adult copyright stance," Sperlein said at the conference. "There are real jobs at stake, and they need to know that. These cases aren't about shaking people down, there about stopping a source that really is bleeding the industry."

Viacom plans to file an appeal against Stanton’s ruling.

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