The epic bore-saga that was Viacom’s little-more-than-a-nuisance action against Google, owner of YouTube, looks to be over as a San Francisco federal judge granted Google’s motion for a summary judgement.
He decided that YouTube is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) against claims of copyright infringement as long as they work co-operatively with rights holders.
A summary judgement implies that Viacom’s £700 million suit was misconceived from the outset — as many commentators said when the initial news of the case broke.
The judgement also applies to the variety of cases pending against Google and YouTube including that lodged by the Premier League.
Google Vice President Kent Walker said: “This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other.
“We’re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world.”
But Viacom vowed it would appeal the ruling, which it claimed was fundamentally flawed.
“Copyright protection is essential to the survival of creative industry,” said Michael Fricklas, Viacom’s general counsel.
“Before YouTube put in place a filtering mechanism to more easily detect copyright infringement, the company had built itself on pirated material and sold itself to Google for $1.65 billion.
“YouTube and Google stole hundreds of thousands of video clips from artists and content creators, including Viacom, building a substantial business that was sold for billions of dollars.”
However these comments have been broadly dismissed by the blogosphere and voices outside the Internet.
“All Mr Fricklas’ comments serve to do is highlight not only his ignorance about YouTube, but they also fail to recognise the fundamental nature of the current statute,” said Richard Goodwin, an influential tech-blogger.
“Copyright holders can’t apply the law selectively to make a quick buck here or there with these cases from now on. This sets a precedent that should protect user generated content against the kind of appalling counter-productive protectionism that Viacom and others have been trying to engender.”