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Whack-a-Mole Reigns Supreme

Dear Readers:

Welcome to my blog. I figure since I’ve got one now, I’d better put something up while ruminating on what to post next. So, below is an article I originally wrote back in June when the Viacom v. YouTube decision originally came down.

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In June, Louis L. Stanton, the federal judge hearing a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Viacom and other “content owners” against YouTube, issued a 30-page opinion in YouTube’s favor.  This decision will affect anyone who makes a living by creating or marketing any kind original, creative work, like TV shows, movies and music.

More than two years and many millions of legal fees ago, Viacom, along with Paramount, BET, the English Premier (soccer) league and some music publishers, sued YouTube and Google, which had paid more than $1.6 billion for YouTube and the privilege of being sued.

Unless you’ve been living in one of the few caves without broadband for the past few years, you know that YouTube is the repository of millions of videos of varying degrees of quality, put up there by ordinary folks like you and me.  And many of the more popular videos are excerpts of TV shows like “The Daily Show” or are amateur videos that include music from their favorite bands.    Sounds like a clear case of copyright infringement, right?  Well, that’s where a fairly arcane section of the Copyright Act comes in.  Section 512(c) provides the YouTubes of the world with a “safe harbor” against copyright infringement claims if they follow certain procedures.

And what are these procedures?  Basically, an entity such as YouTube that has “information residing on systems or networks at the direction of users” has to have a “designated agent”, like an e-mail address where copyright owners can send a notice that the site has posted infringing material.  If the site promptly takes down infringing material after receiving a notice of infringement in accordance with the statute, then it won’t be liable for copyright infringement.

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