Viacom v. YouTube: Part Deux

Nathan Fan is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School

This past Friday, Viacom submitted its long-awaited appeal to the New York District Court decision in favour of YouTube issued earlier this year in June. Reports state that the 72 page appeal contends that Judge Stanton erred in affording YouTube the DMCA’s safe habour provision because its founders had aggressively encouraged piracy to expand its audience in a ‘get rich quick’ strategy, which panned out favourably for the founders when Google bought YouTube four years ago for $1.76 billion. Viacom argues that if the district court’s ruling is allowed to stand, it would “severely impair, if not completely destroy, the value of many copyrighted creations”. Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, brought on board for Viacom’s case, stated: “It’s as if to say, well we’ve stopped robbing banks, so let’s just forget the whole thing and move on. It is exceedingly important in this era of intellectual property and new creative endeavors that we continue to respect what people create.”

As Viacom’s suit is only for YouTube’s behaviour before mid-2008, some legal commentators believe Viacom’s case has become less significant than it was when it first started in early 2007. YouTube has since then increasingly looked to licensing professional content for its site and has begun to use recognition technology to automatically identify unauthorized clips as they are uploaded onto the site. Google also announced on Thursday that it will be changing its copyright rules to “help make copyright better online”, including being more responsive to take-down requests, increasing anti-piracy measures, and encouraging the viewing of authorized content on the internet. In response to Viacom’s appeal, Google stated: “We regret that Viacom continues to drag out this case. The court here, like every other court to have considered the issue, correctly ruled that the law protects online services like YouTube, which remove content when notified by the copyright holder that it is unauthorized. We will strongly defend the court’s decision on appeal.”

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