Website Finds Safe Harbor from Copyright Infringement Damages for User-Provided Videos
By Debbie Rosenbaum – Edited by Andrew Ungberg
Io Group, Inc. v. Veoh Networks, Inc.
N.D. Cal., August 27, 2008, No. C06-03926 HRL
(hosted by Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Last week, a federal judge in San Jose, U.S. District Judge Howard Lloyd, ruled that Veoh Networks, Inc. (“Veoh”), is not liable for copyright infringement for material that was uploaded to its site. Veho provides software and a website that enables the sharing of user-provided video content over the Internet.
The case arises from a complaint filed by Io Group, Inc. (“Io”), a company that holds and owns a number of registered copyrights for a variety of adult entertainment products. Between June 1 and June 22, 2006, Io alleged that it discovered clips from ten of its copyrighted films had been uploaded and viewed on veoh.com without its authorization. None of the clips contained copyright notices, except one work that displayed a “Titan Media” trademark several minutes into the clip; Io conducts business under that name.
Veoh’s first notice of the claimed infringement was Io’s filing of the instant lawsuit on June 23, 2006. Independently, Veoh had already decided that it would no longer permit adult content on its website. By the time this suit was filed, access to all adult content on Veoh’s website – including any content allegedly infringing Io’s copyrights – had been terminated.
Io sought summary judgment on liability for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. The court ruled that, even assuming that plaintiff’s infringement claims pass summary judgment muster, Veoh was eligible for safe harbor protection from damages; furthermore the court found the limited injunctive relief provided under the DMCA was moot.
Commentators have noted the potentially far-reaching effects of this decision, especially for the ongoing YouTube-Viacom infringement litigation. See the L.A. Times, CNet, Wired, Silicon Alley Insider, Techdirt, TechCrunch.
Bruce Boyden of Prawfsblawg notes, most commentators have focused the holding that Veoh’s automated reformatting of uploaded materials does not create copies for which Veoh is responsible. Boyden also notes the similarities to the Second Circuit’s recent Cablevision case, calling the cases “good precedent for ISPs who process uploaded content. . . . .”