Viacom Wins Appeals Court Reversal Against Google

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Uh oh, looks like Google might be in a bit of a mess. Remember that epic legal battle between Viacom and YouTube a few years ago? Well, it’s being given new life.

Back in 2007 Viacom sued Google for knowingly allowing users to post copyrighted material on YouTube. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for over a billion dollars and the video-sharing site was founded in 2005. Viacom, along with other companies, believe that YouTube wasn’t doing enough to take down their content and sought over $1 billion from Google. However, Google always believed that it shouldn’t be held responsible for what its users do and the company says that it takes down copyrighted content when notified.

Viacom and Google fought over this issue for several years until June 2010 when a lower court ruled in favor of Google. The court agreed with Google’s argument that it shouldn’t be held responsible if its users infringe copyright. The court upheld an interpretation of the 1998 federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that protects companies from liability for what its users do online. It was seen as a big victory for Google at the time.

Fast-forward almost two years later and this issue is back to give Google some headaches. Viacom filled an appeal in October 2011 saying that the dismissal of their lawsuit was “fundamentally flawed”.  Today, a panel of judges at an appeals court agreed with Viacom and reversed the decision of the lower court saying that it’s quite obvious that YouTube knew about the copyrighted content being uploaded but did nothing to stop it.

Viacom is obviously thrilled by the reversal and released a statement:

“This balanced decision provides a thoughtful way to distinguish legitimate service providers from those that build their businesses on infringement. The court delivered a definitive, common sense message to YouTube – intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law. We are confident we will prevail when the merits of our case are heard”

This also opens the door for several other companies who have issues with Google’s video-sharing website. It includes several sport leagues, music publishers, artists, and news agencies. They are delighted by the appeals court decision and will seize their chance to protect their material.

Viacom seems to have a love-hate relationship with Google. Viacom has a reputation for being quite litigious and so it suing Google is to be expected – but the two of them have also been working with each other. Viacom now has YouTube channels set up and receives revenue from it. And just yesterday it was announced that a deal was made so that online users could rent Paramount Pictures (a subsidiary of Viacom) movies from YouTube’s rental store.

Awkward….anyway, we’ll see what happens between these two as they get ready to rehash this old argument.

For more information:

The Guardian, “Judge reanimates Viacom’s $1bn copyright suit against YouTube” – click here

CBSNews, “Revived Viacom suit spells trouble for Google” – click here

The Register, “Viacom’s anti-Google copyright case rises from the dead” – click here

Reuters, “Viacom wins reversal in landmark YouTube case” – click here

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