November 13, 2007 by Angela Bitonti
The YouTube phenomenon has swept the Internet in a relatively short period of time, but with this popularity has also come an onslaught of copyright infringement litigation. The most significant of this litigation is the1 billion-dollar lawsuit initiated by Viacom in March 2007. Since then, a number of other major media companies and publishers have joined the group of powerful media company plaintiffs. Most recently, The Football Association Premier League and The National Music Publishers’ Association joined the suit [i]. These media conglomerates and publishers may be concerned with different forms of media but the claims against YouTube are the same; that YouTube is knowingly allowing, and in effect encouraging copyright infringement by its users, and further, that YouTube is profiting from the infringement.
This case is of importance because the outcome could have a huge effect on how user-submitted content is treated by websites of all kinds, whether its video sharing, blogging, or virtual avatars. Specifically, it has huge implications for the Safe Harbour provisions of the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA) and fair use rights [ii]. Under the Safe Harbour provision, service providers cannot be held liable for their users’ infringement if they promptly respond to takedown request by copyright owners [iii]. It is that very provision that YouTube asserts as its defence to the Viacom litigation.