For the second time in four years, U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton in New York has granted summary judgement to defendant YouTube in a long-running copyright infringement suit filed by Viacom, Inc.
That ruling came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had reversed Stanton’s initial summary judgment, with the appellate judges finding that a reasonable jury could decide that YouTube either had “knowledge or awareness” of infringing clips of Viacom’s shows on its website or that it was “willfully blind” to infringement taking place.
In the district court’s latest decision, Stanton again held that YouTube was protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” provision, Section 512 (c). He essentially found that the burden rests on copyright owners to locate infringing content, and when they do so, they or their agents must send online service providers notices seeking to take down disputed material. Section 512 (c)(3)(A) lists six requirements for an adequate take down notice. YouTube is not the only provider sheltered under the DMCA.
Should it protect websites like YouTube to this extent? Absolutely. The sheer volume of content on YouTube (24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute) makes it onerous, nigh impossible, for a provider, arguendo, to police the site for infringing material. Indeed, YouTube showed the court 63,000 clips found to be infringing, then insisted that Viacom demonstrate that it had properly challenged each.
And at least as the law now reads — and until Congress and not the courts act to change it — copyright owners can and should act to protect their own content, Stanton noted. If that means copyright holders must hire staff or develop software or other technologies to scour the Internet for infringing material and then rattle off take-down notice after take-down notice, so be it.