March 16, 2007 12:03 PM PDT

Viacom lawyer: YouTube knows it violates copyrights

WASHINGTON--There's no doubt that YouTube is committing copyright infringement, so the central question is who must police its content, an attorney for Viacom said Friday.

After "months and months" of negotiations about that dilemma, failure to reach a resolution prompted Viacom "reluctantly" to file a $1 billion lawsuit against Google's video-sharing site earlier this week, said Don Verrilli, one of a team of Washington-based lawyers representing the media conglomerate.

Google and YouTube attorneys have argued that a provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) shields the company from infringement liability if it removes disputed clips promptly.

"We're confident and always have been that Congress intended with the DMCA to enable this type of service," Glenn Brown, product counsel for YouTube and Google, said in an interview earlier this week.

But that interpretation leaves Viacom with an unfair burden, argued Verrilli, who also argued Hollywood's U.S. Supreme Court case against file-swapping service Grokster and is a partner at the Jenner & Block law firm.

"What that means is we've got to employ an army of people around the clock who do nothing but monitor YouTube, catalog those works, (send takedown requests)...and find out the next day that the works go back up," he said at a panel discussion here hosted by the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank.

Verrilli said work has also grown increasingly handicapped by a YouTube feature that allows users to create private groups to share videos, which cannot readily be monitored by outsiders.

YouTube must know it is committing infringement because it already agrees to pull disputed videos when served with takedown notices, and it appears to have no problem filtering out videos whose content belongs to companies with whom it has already signed licensing deals, Verrilli said.

Furthermore it's hard to make a case that YouTube is an "innocent service provider" in the eyes of the law, he added. Under Section 512 of the DMCA, service providers may only benefit from the liability "safe harbor" if they meet a number of conditions, including not being aware of infringing activity and not making direct financial gain from it. In Viacom's view, Google does not meet those standards.

YouTube has done "a lot of social good that comes with a very significant problem," Verilli said. "And the significant problem that comes along with the good is that there is an enormous, enormous amount of copyrighted video works uploaded onto YouTube and viewed on a staggeringly high level by YouTube users."

Google has defended its practices throughout the week, going so far as to say YouTube's popularity has grown since the company recently agreed to remove clips at Viacom's request.

Existing partnerships with content owners like Warner Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music, the BBC and the National Basketball Association "offer the YouTube community access to some of the best content in the world, ranging from entertainment and sports to politics and news," Google general counsel Kent Walker said in a statement the day the suit was announced. "And we're only getting started."

An executive speaking at a conference here on Thursday emphasized that Google believes it has strong legal backing under the DMCA and consequently hasn't started "writing any checks yet."

CNET News.com's Elinor Mills contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
Viacom Inc., DMCA, YouTube, attorney, lawyer

30 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Useless lawyers at it again
Well, here is our little collection of lawyers with nothing to do all day except to sit their fat a's behind a desk and draft up lawsuits all day. After all, that's how they make their money. All these little pigglets, err lawyers I mean, know that Google has a lot of money, so why not go after Google, just like little piggy running up to mommy to suckle his milk.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Useless lawyers at it again
Well, here is our little collection of lawyers with nothing to do all day except to sit their fat a's behind a desk and draft up lawsuits all day. After all, that's how they make their money. All these little pigglets, err lawyers I mean, know that Google has a lot of money, so why not go after Google, just like little piggy running up to mommy to suckle his milk.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pretty much what I expect to hear from Viacom
Of course both sides are going to paint their position as the right one. It should be noted that Viacom owns Atom Films and iFilm, two video sharing sites that make content owners send DMCA take down notices as the only way to remove their videos if a users posts them without permission. So I think there is a bit of hypocrisy in Viacom's criticism of YouTube.

As for posting videos with restricted access, Viacom is actually going to argue against privacy because it might make their responsibility to police their copyrights harder. They forget about people who post video of their kids etc and only want family and friends to see it.

If the Electronic Frontier Foundation has their way, Viacom might be on the receiving end of a lawsuit as part of EFF's crusade against DMCA abuse. Viacom irresponsibly did a search on YouTube and sent take down notices for all the content in the result and didn't bother to verify it was actually theirs.

It seems Viacom wants their rights at the expense of everyone else's. They want everyone else to do the policing for them.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pretty much what I expect to hear from Viacom
Of course both sides are going to paint their position as the right one. It should be noted that Viacom owns Atom Films and iFilm, two video sharing sites that make content owners send DMCA take down notices as the only way to remove their videos if a users posts them without permission. So I think there is a bit of hypocrisy in Viacom's criticism of YouTube.

As for posting videos with restricted access, Viacom is actually going to argue against privacy because it might make their responsibility to police their copyrights harder. They forget about people who post video of their kids etc and only want family and friends to see it.

If the Electronic Frontier Foundation has their way, Viacom might be on the receiving end of a lawsuit as part of EFF's crusade against DMCA abuse. Viacom irresponsibly did a search on YouTube and sent take down notices for all the content in the result and didn't bother to verify it was actually theirs.

It seems Viacom wants their rights at the expense of everyone else's. They want everyone else to do the policing for them.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wahh, wahh, wahh
What a bunch of crybabies.
I guess the DMCA is only good if it TAKES AWAY from consumers.
Viacom, shut up!
Posted by dahnb (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wahh, wahh, wahh
What a bunch of crybabies.
I guess the DMCA is only good if it TAKES AWAY from consumers.
Viacom, shut up!
Posted by dahnb (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If they don't know, they're the biggest idiots on the planet.
If they don't know, they're the biggest idiots on the planet.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If they don't know, they're the biggest idiots on the planet.
If they don't know, they're the biggest idiots on the planet.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Viacom please explain
If YouTube is so evil, how come y'all just inked a deal with them to show NCAA clips from your unit CBS?
Posted by kaufmanmoore (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Viacom please explain
If YouTube is so evil, how come y'all just inked a deal with them to show NCAA clips from your unit CBS?
Posted by kaufmanmoore (42 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Viaom should go open source
They have old dusty copyrights and should set them up based on a distribution method that is based on amount of content viewed per dollar, which I think YouTube is setting up this year.
So users generated cont creators get paid.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Viaom should go open source
They have old dusty copyrights and should set them up based on a distribution method that is based on amount of content viewed per dollar, which I think YouTube is setting up this year.
So users generated cont creators get paid.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
YouTube is a platform.. cannot blame them for what users put there
YouTube is just the platform, they cannot take blame if users put up copyrighted material. Just like you cannot takr down yahoo mail if someone attached (c)-mp3s and mails them to buddies. We have to come up with creative solutions in this age of rapidshare and torrents. Blame game gets us nowhere and we can end up sacrificing good techs for that.
Posted by alwaysaware (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That argument didn't help Napster 1.0
The aggravating factor for Napster was that there wasn't any non-copyrighted material being accessed over the system. Therein lies a key difference between it and YouTube: the volume of user-generated content on YouTube enables it to argue that piracy isn't the point of its service. Napster couldn't make such a claim so it resorted to the argument that it simply made a benign platform and didn't condone its misuse, notwithsatnding rampant misuse.

But that doesn't excuse YouTube from responsibility. This isn't a "blame game" so much as a genuine legal question of whether YouTube's method of taking down pirated content when brought to their attention is sufficient or if they, and similar services, bear a higher burden and must better police their service.

Copyright still matters, no matter how innovative the service and sometimes we, as you say, "end up sacraficing good techs." Napster was a "good tech." Unquestionably innovative. A game changer. But as much as it may be missed by its loyalists, it was sacraficed with good cause.
Posted by jsampsonjr (2 comments )
Link Flag
YouTube is a platform.. cannot blame them for what users put there
YouTube is just the platform, they cannot take blame if users put up copyrighted material. Just like you cannot takr down yahoo mail if someone attached (c)-mp3s and mails them to buddies. We have to come up with creative solutions in this age of rapidshare and torrents. Blame game gets us nowhere and we can end up sacrificing good techs for that.
Posted by alwaysaware (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That argument didn't help Napster 1.0
The aggravating factor for Napster was that there wasn't any non-copyrighted material being accessed over the system. Therein lies a key difference between it and YouTube: the volume of user-generated content on YouTube enables it to argue that piracy isn't the point of its service. Napster couldn't make such a claim so it resorted to the argument that it simply made a benign platform and didn't condone its misuse, notwithsatnding rampant misuse.

But that doesn't excuse YouTube from responsibility. This isn't a "blame game" so much as a genuine legal question of whether YouTube's method of taking down pirated content when brought to their attention is sufficient or if they, and similar services, bear a higher burden and must better police their service.

Copyright still matters, no matter how innovative the service and sometimes we, as you say, "end up sacraficing good techs." Napster was a "good tech." Unquestionably innovative. A game changer. But as much as it may be missed by its loyalists, it was sacraficed with good cause.
Posted by jsampsonjr (2 comments )
Link Flag
Copyright violation
Dear Viacom

How about Ford, aren't they gilty when someone uses a Ford to tranport a piratet film or a piratet music cd?
Posted by idsantos (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Copyright violation
Dear Viacom

How about Ford, aren't they gilty when someone uses a Ford to tranport a piratet film or a piratet music cd?
Posted by idsantos (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google censorship
Google censored videos that showed the global warming, peak oil, and other things were wrong but kept the videos that showed that global warming, peak oil, and other things were right. Oddly enough Google seems to have a liberal bias and keeps pro-liberal viewed videos, but removes videos with non-liberal views like libertarians, moderates, conservatives, etc.

There was a Penn and Teller BS video called Environmental Hysteria that was removed from Youtube and Google video, but other Penn and Teller BS episodes were kept. Google pulled the Environmental Hysteria video claiming copyright violations, but if it was fair it would pull the other Penn and Teller BS episodes as well, but it did not. The only Penn and Teller BS episodes that Google kept are ones that have the liberal point of view like the ones that bash religion, the war on drugs, etc.

If I was Google, if I delete one or a few I'd delete all of them in the same TV series. I'd also make a terms of service agreement that holds the uploader of the video liable for copyright violations in case Youtube/Google Video gets sued. If the same account keeps uploading copyrighted videos, it could get warned or suspended based on the incident.

I think Youtube and Google should be used to host videos with an open source license, and not a closed commercial license unless the maker of the video, TV show, movie, etc gives rights to host it.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Paranoid Ravings
The great Google conspiracy exits only in your badly worded opinion
Posted by dahnb (49 comments )
Link Flag
Google censorship
Google censored videos that showed the global warming, peak oil, and other things were wrong but kept the videos that showed that global warming, peak oil, and other things were right. Oddly enough Google seems to have a liberal bias and keeps pro-liberal viewed videos, but removes videos with non-liberal views like libertarians, moderates, conservatives, etc.

There was a Penn and Teller BS video called Environmental Hysteria that was removed from Youtube and Google video, but other Penn and Teller BS episodes were kept. Google pulled the Environmental Hysteria video claiming copyright violations, but if it was fair it would pull the other Penn and Teller BS episodes as well, but it did not. The only Penn and Teller BS episodes that Google kept are ones that have the liberal point of view like the ones that bash religion, the war on drugs, etc.

If I was Google, if I delete one or a few I'd delete all of them in the same TV series. I'd also make a terms of service agreement that holds the uploader of the video liable for copyright violations in case Youtube/Google Video gets sued. If the same account keeps uploading copyrighted videos, it could get warned or suspended based on the incident.

I think Youtube and Google should be used to host videos with an open source license, and not a closed commercial license unless the maker of the video, TV show, movie, etc gives rights to host it.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Paranoid Ravings
The great Google conspiracy exits only in your badly worded opinion
Posted by dahnb (49 comments )
Link Flag
you tube should try this out of india - they will be safer
check this..
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=158221" target="_newWindow">http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=158221</a>
Posted by PoornimaSinha (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
you tube should try this out of india - they will be safer
check this..
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=158221" target="_newWindow">http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=158221</a>
Posted by PoornimaSinha (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who really gives a crap?
YouTube is just a load of crud, Viacom is just a load of crud. It's all really just a lot of mindless diversions for glue-sniffing trailer trash. Who cares who sues whom over this garbage?
Posted by mn39202 (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who really gives a crap?
YouTube is just a load of crud, Viacom is just a load of crud. It's all really just a lot of mindless diversions for glue-sniffing trailer trash. Who cares who sues whom over this garbage?
Posted by mn39202 (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.