Google stands firm on Viacom appeal

Internet company maintains it does not violate copyright law

Google is pushing back at Viacom’s effort to reverse a judge’s decision last year that YouTube was well within the “safe harbor” provisions of copyright law and not liable for thousands of copyrighted clips from TV shows and movies posted to the site.

Viacom, which sued Google and YouTube in a $1 billion copyright infringement suit, appealed U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton’s June decision, arguing that if his opinion stands, it would “radically transform” the copyright system and act as an invitation for rampant infringement across the Internet. Studios and some guild leaders expressed dismay at the judge’s decision, as it placed the burden of identifying infringing material on the copyright owner rather than the user-generated site.

Google argues that when YouTube promptly took down tens of thousands of videos after Viacom gave it notice, YouTube was within provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

“Plaintiffs have not identified a single clip-in-suit that YouTube knew was infringing but failed to promptly take down,” Google said in its brief to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. “Instead, plaintiffs offer various theories about generalized awareness that unidentified infringing material may be somewhere on YouTube should be disqualifying.”

Google acquired YouTube in 2006, and Viacom filed its suit against both companies in 2007.

In a statement in response to Google’s brief, Viacom said that under the 1998 Copyright Act, “Content owners and systems operators share responsibility for the protection of copyrighted content online. It was never intended to absolve companies like YouTube from liability for building a business by deliberately infringing others’ creative works. We look forward to the review of this case by the court of appeals and are confident that it will vindicate the rights of content creators.”

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