×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Court reinstates Viacom case vs. YouTube

Appeals panel reverses key decision in copyright infringement fight

Viacom won a victory in its $1 billion suit against YouTube, after a federal appeals court ruled that a jury should be allowed to hear whether the online video site should be held liable for tens of thousands of clips from “The Daily Show,” Paramount movies and other Viacom properties posted on its site.

YouTube and its parent, Google, claim that it is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” provision, which shields sites from liability for infringing content if they don’t have actual knowledge of infringing activity. That is a key point for user-generated sites, who are responsible for taking down copyrighted material upon notice from a content owner.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling issued on Thursday, said that U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton “correctly held” that liability “requires knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity,” but they said that a jury should decide whether YouTube had “actual knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity on its website.”

In 2010, Stanton granted summary judgment to YouTube in a decisive ruling that Viacom and other media congloms said put an undue burden on copyright owners to traffic the Internet to spot pirated clips.

Viacom claimed that YouTube had liability because it had knowledge that infringing activity was taking place on its site, particularly in the time before Google acquired them for $1.76 billion in 2006.

The appellate court also held that Stanton, in deciding YouTube’s liability, erred by interpreting the “right and ability to control” infringing activity to require “item-specific knowledge.”

A spokesman for Viacom said in a statement, “We are pleased with the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Court delivered a definitive, common sense message — intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law.

But a spokeswoman for YouTube said that the 2nd Circuit “has upheld the long-standing interpretation of the DMCA and rejected Viacom’s reading of the law. All that is left of the Viacom lawsuit that began as a wholesale attack on YouTube is a dispute over a tiny percentage of videos long ago removed from YouTube. Nothing in this decision impacts the way YouTube is operating. YouTube will continue to be a vibrant forum for free expression around the world.”

The decision was issued by circuit judges Jose Cabranes and Debra Ann Livingston. Judge Roger Miner also was assigned to the panel, but died in February.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Disney Kevin Mayer Recode Media

    Disney Streaming Boss Kevin Mayer: App Architecture to Blame for Disney Plus Stumbles

    No, it wasn’t Amazon’s fault that Disney Plus struggled following its launch last week: Disney direct-to-consumer chairman Kevin Mayer told the audience of Recode’s Code Media conference in Los Angeles Tuesday that there really wasn’t anyone to blame but Disney’s own technology. “It had we to do with the way we architected the app,” Mayer [...]

  • Disney-Plus-Logo

    Disney Plus Customer Service Still Experiencing 'High Volume' of Help Inquiries

    Disney Plus got off to a rocky start with widespread technical problems for the streaming service on launch day — and a week later, the company says it’s still seeing a high level of incoming calls from users who are having problems. Disney announced one day after the launch that more than 10 million people [...]

  • The Game Awards

    The Game Awards 2019 Nominees: 'Death Stranding,' 'Control' Lead the Field (Full List)

    The Game Awards 2019 unveiled nominations for this year’s event, led by Hideo Kojima’s epic “Death Stranding” with nine nods and Remedy/505 Games’ “Control” with eight nominations. This year’s Game of the Year nominees, in addition to “Control” and “Death Stranding,” are “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” “Resident Evil 2,” “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” and “The [...]

  • Roger Lynch Code Media

    Conde Nast CEO Roger Lynch: 'The Jury Is Out' on Apple News Plus

    Conde Nast CEO Roger Lynch told the audience of Recode’s Code Media conference that he hadn’t made up his mind yet about Apple’s news subscription service. “I think the jury is out,” Lynch said, adding that he had inherited Conde Nast’s deal with Apple from his predecessor. “I hope Apple News Plus is wildly successful,” [...]

  • Diego Winburn - Telemundo Snapchat

    Telemundo Launches First Snapchat Show, 'Diego Street Magic'

    NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, looking to tap into Snapchat’s youth-skewing user base, launched its first exclusive show on Snapchat. Telemundo’s 10-episode “Diego Street Magic” features Mexican-American magician Diego Winburn performing magic tricks and illusions on the streets of New York City. After premiering Nov. 19, new episodes will be available Tuesdays and Thursdays through mid-December on [...]

  • Disney Plus user interface home screen

    Disney Plus Is Not Hampering Netflix Yet, Analysts Say -- But It's Only Been a Week

    One week after the launch of Disney Plus, Wall Street analysts are scouring tea leaves for signs of how the Mouse House’s streaming service is faring — and whether it’s taken a bite out of Netflix. Disney Plus’ launch in the first week had “little to no impact” on Netflix usage trends, which is “reassuring [...]

  • Ross Levinsohn

    Maven Media Bosses Stumble Explaining Their Plans for Sports Illustrated

    Ross Levinsohn’s reintroduction into the spotlight of the media world was off to a rocky start. Appearing at Recode’s Code Media conference Monday afternoon alongside his business partner James Heckman, Levinsohn was given a chance to address the elephant in the room right out of the gate, with journalist Peter Kafka bringing up allegations of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content