For the second time in the past three years, YouTube has beaten Viacom in a long-running copyright infringement case that accused the video-sharing site of turning a blind eye to illegally uploaded videos.
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton granted the Google-owned video site's request for summary judgment on Thursday, agreeing that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provisions protected YouTube from liability.
Viacom, parent company of Paramount Pictures and MTV, filed a $1 billion lawsuit in 2007, accusing YouTube of encouraging copyright infringement and profiting when users upload unauthorized TV and movie clips. Google argued that the DMCA's safe harbor provision protected it and other Internet service providers from being held responsible for copyright infringements committed by users.
Stanton sided with YouTube in 2010, but Viacom appealed the ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court later that year.
YouTube submitted 63,060 video clips that were later identified as infringing copyrights and challenged Viacom to prove adequate notice of infringement was given to YouTube. Viacom admitted in January that "neither side possesses the kind of evidence that would allow a clip-by-clip assessment of actual knowledge. Defendants apparently are unable to say which clips-in-suit they knew about and which they did not."
The judged issued another summary judgement (see below) on Thursday, calling Viacom's argument "ingenious" but based on "an anachronistic, pre-Digital Millennium Copyright Act concept" of the law.
"The burden of showing that YouTube knew or was aware of the specific infringements of the works in suit cannot be shifted to YouTube to disprove," he wrote. "Congress has determined that the burden of identifying what must be taken down is to be on the copyright owner, a determination which has proven practicable in practice."
Google welcomed the ruling, calling it a victory for all Internet users.
"The court correctly rejected Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube, reaffirming that Congress got it right when it comes to copyright on the Internet," Google general counsel Kent Walker said in a statement. "This is a win not just for YouTube, but for people everywhere who depend on the Internet to exchange ideas and information."
Meanwhile, Viacom criticized the decision as shortsighted in a tweet.
"This ruling ignores the opinions of the higher courts and completely disregards the rights of creative artists," Viacom said.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, YouTube founder Chad Hurley sent a taunting tweet to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, inviting him out for a celebratory beer:
Hey Philippe, wanna grab a beer to celebrate?! YouTube Again Beats Viacom's Massive Copyright Infringement Lawsuitj.mp/ZCuWCQ— Chad Hurley (@Chad_Hurley) April 18, 2013
Updated at 4:55 p.m. PT with Google statement.