Viacom Makes Its Case Against Yesterday’s YouTube

Today, after three years of litigation, the Viacom v. YouTube combatants finally publicly released their briefs (Viacom’s; YouTube’s; Class Action Plaintiffs’) in what most expect to be the main event in the case, namely, cross-motions for summary judgment (for the non-lawyers: a summary judgment motion asks the court to rule that the case is such a slam dunk in your favor that no trial is necessary).

One surprise from Viacom is a concession that it basically has no beef with YouTube as it has been run since May 2008: "[W]e do not ask the Court to address potential liability for post-May 2008 infringement in this motion and, if Viacom’s summary judgment motion is granted, do not intend to do so at trial." What happened in May 2008? That would be when YouTube launched its Content ID system, enabling copyright owners to "claim" their content and decide whether it will be blocked or monetized on YouTube.

In other words, this case isn’t really about YouTube (at least YouTube circa 2010). It’s about Viacom’s effort to get the court to re-write the DMCA safe harbors to require everyone else to implement (and pay for) copyright filtering. If Viacom succeeds, it would radically change the innovation environment for all Internet companies that depend on the DMCA safe harbors.

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