Google Responds to Viacom's $1 Billion Lawsuit
March 14, 2007 12:00 PM
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Google says its protected by the DMCA
Yesterday, Viacom dropped a $1 billion lawsuit bomb on Google, claiming that the search giant "intentionally" allows users to post copyrighted material on its YouTube website. Today, Google's lawyers indicated that
Google has a very strong legal stance against Viacom's claims
. Under current copyright laws, Google indicated that it was well protected.
According to Google's associate general counsel Alexander Macgillivray, his company's actions are within the protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). "Here there is a law which is specifically designed to give Web hosts such as us, or... bloggers or people that provide photo-album hosting online ... the 'safe harbor' we need in order to be able to do hosting online," Macgillivray said.
Just a few days ago,
reported on the new Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship (FAIR USE) Act, which
lightens the restrictions imposed by the DMCA
even more so. In fact, the FAIR USE act aims to protect companies that provide products and services to consumers, from being sued by the likes of such organizations as the RIAA.
"This is an area of law where there are a bunch of really clear precedents, so Amazon and eBay have both been found to qualify for the safe harbor and there are a whole bunch more," said Macgillivray. Google said in a statement that it plans to have YouTube continue its services.
"We will continue to innovate and continue to host material for people, without being distracted by this suit," continued Macgillivray. Google previously won in a case involving similar copyright issues where it won based on safe harbor protection and other grounds.
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RE: Sorry, does not fly
3/15/2007 12:52:00 PM
Not true. A lot of ISPs don't allow porn distribution on their sites, it'd be in their contract terms with their customers (all that fine print stuff that one might not have read but agreed to anyway). And presumably they axe sites they host that break their rules or "filter" content as such.
RE: Sorry, does not fly
3/15/2007 12:59:49 PM
P.S. - They don't do it out of being a requirement though, they do it because they just want to have that policy (probably because porn distribution would use a lot of bandwidth, my cynical side says).
RE: Sorry, does not fly
3/15/2007 3:49:10 PM
But, despite "disallowing" porn or other content prohibited by the Terms of Service, ISPs don't actively poke through people's files to find it. YouTube does. And YouTube automatically deletes porn. There are internet pornographers posting their own videos on YouTube. They make "teaser" videos that are specifically safe for YouTube, and their profile includes a link to the actual porn website. But they skirt the line and thus get it past YouTube censors (who seemingly do review every video).
That isn't how it is with ISPs. They don't have the time or manpower to view every single photo or video or open every .ZIP file looking for porn or hate material or whatever else they prohibit in their TOS. They simply don't check and can't be expected to check. You're right, I believe this is more due to bandwidth issues than anything else for most ISPs (I think it also has something do with NetNanny filters etc.... you don't want one porn site on a shared server blacklisting all the other sites on the same IP or group of IPs), but I guarantee that you could upload porn to any ISP you please and never be found out... although obviously if it causes a big spike in traffic then the ISP might get suspicious and check it out. But you could just upload it and leave it there for years and nobody would ever give a damn. If you do it and they find out, your account will be suspended or terminated, but the "finding out" part is the big thing. Very few would find out.
Lastly, there is a very big qualitative difference between YouTube and the porn-on-ISPs scenario that you brought up. Posting copyrighted video to YouTube breaks copyright laws. It is technically illegal. Uploading porn to your ISP doesn't necessarily break any laws, although it may terminate the contract with the ISP.
There is a difference between "filtering" and the porn scenario that you propose. Filtering is looking at every piece of content uploaded and rejecting content that doesn't fit, which YouTube does in the case of pornography but not in the case of obviously copyrighted material.
It's like the difference between living in an apartment where illegal drugs are "prohibited" but you could get away with using them if you're careful, and living in some sort of prison where everything coming in and out is thoroughly searched. In the apartment building, you'll never get thrown out if you don't do something to draw attention to yourself or cause problems with other tenants. In the prison, you'll never get the drugs in in the first place because everything is searched. Drugs are "prohibited" in both, but one takes a reactive approach to the issue while the other takes an active approach.
ISPs (at least the ones I've used) take the "apartment" approach. They do not actively filter everything uploaded to their servers. YouTube *does* actively filter everything uploaded to their servers. They reject porn no problem, but they allow copyrighted material to pass through all the time.
I also wanted to mention that I'm really not in favor of Viacom or the other copyright holders. I've done more than my share of Napstering and BearSharing back in the day. And I actually hate Viacom more than I hate most of the living-in-the-past copyright holders. But in this case I don't see how Google/YouTube can get out of this legal jam. Such a large, respectable (and profitable) company appearing to actively allow piracy paints a pretty big target.
“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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