Viacom wins reversal in landmark YouTube case
By Jonathan Stempel and Yinka Adegoke
(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court dealt Google Inc a major defeat by reviving lawsuits by Viacom Inc, the English Premier League and various other media companies over the use of copyrighted videos on Google's YouTube service without permission.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a June 2010 lower court ruling in favor of YouTube, which had been considered a landmark in setting guidelines for websites to use content uploaded by users.
"It's hard to characterize this as anything other than a loss for Google, and potentially a significant one," said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law. "It has given new life to a case that Google thought was dead."
The $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom in 2007 to stop the posting of clips from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "South Park," "SpongeBob SquarePants" and other programs addressed a crucial issue for media companies: how to win Internet viewers without ceding control of TV shows, movies and music.
It was seen as a test of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 federal law making it illegal to produce technology to circumvent anti-piracy measures, and limiting liability of online service providers for copyright infringement by users.
In his June 2010 ruling, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan said YouTube could not be liable simply for having a "general awareness" that videos might be posted illegally, and that it need not monitor for such activity.
But writing for a two-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit, Judge Jose Cabranes concluded that "a reasonable jury could find that YouTube had actual knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity on its website."
The plaintiffs had accused YouTube of broadcasting about 79,000 copyrighted videos on its website between 2005 and 2008. Continued...