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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Viacom Sues Google

Reuters reports:

Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. said on Tuesday that it was suing Google Inc. and its Internet video-sharing site YouTube for more than $1 billion over unauthorized use of its programming online.

The lawsuit (...) accuses the Web search leader and its unit of “massive intentional copyright infringement.

According to Reuters, Viacom says there’s 160,000 unauthorized clips on the site but that they only had “a great deal of unproductive negotiation” with Google over it.

Now, it’s important to note that not every unauthorized republication of copyrighted material is an infringement, thanks to “fair use” copyright laws. You don’t have to ask for permission if your republication constitutes fair use (meaning that a lot of Viacom content on YouTube may be infringing while a lot of other Viacom content may not be infringing). says there are 4 different factors which need to be considered when determining whether or not something is “fair,” and thus legal – quote:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Let’s go through these one by one:

Google may additionally use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “Safe Harbor” provision. Quote Chilling Effects:

[The On-Line Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act] exempts on-line service providers that meet the criteria set forth in the safe harbor provisions from claims of copyright infringement made against them that result from the conduct of their customers. These safe harbor provisions are designed to shelter service providers from the infringing activities of their customers. If a service provider qualifies for the safe harbor exemption, only the individual infringing customer are liable for monetary damages; the service provider’s network through which they engaged in the alleged activities is not liable.

Google told CNN that they didn’t see the lawsuit yet but feel “confident that YouTube has respected the legal rights of copyright holders and believe the courts will agree.” I suppose they have to say this, because everything else would be an admission of guilt backfiring in court. The actual case at hand is far less clear, and starts another battle in the old media vs new media wars – those who understand new media favor sharing, while those who don’t favor control.

Join the ongoing comments.

[Thanks Mister Scruff and Alek!]


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