Media giant Viacomm holds the rights to many popular video properties, including MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. I’m not saying that these programs are designed to appeal to viewers with short attention spans, but the content does lend itself well to capture and uploading to YouTube (which has a 10 minute cap on segment lengths). And these viewers seem to want to share the latest thing they saw on these networks, so they post them on YouTube (now owned by the Internet giant, Google).
The problem is that this is copyrighted content, and YouTube does not have Viacomm’s permission to use the content. Viacomm has identified offending clips, and YouTube has promptly taken them down. But that has not stopped the posting of Viacomm’s copyrighted clips. So Viacomm has sued Google, asking for $1 billion in damages over copyright infringement.
Last Monday, Google fired back with a request that the suit be dismissed. It appears that Google claims it is not legally liable, making a surprising reference to a law. The law is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — DMCA — which is generally considered to give an enormous advantage to the copyright holders. For example, the act makes it illegal to reverse engineer copyrighted products. But according to Google’s lawyers, the DMCA also holds that Web site owners are not liable for copyrighted material uploaded to their sites by others, so long as they respond promptly to requests from the copyright holders for its removal.
It’s an interesting development, and any consumer of Internet-based content will want to pay attention to the final outcome of this case.