Second Circuit Ruling Leaves Open Possibility That YouTube Is Not Protected By Safe Harbor
By Jacob Rogers – Edited by Julie Dorais
Viacom Int’l, Inc., Football Ass’n Premier League Ltd. v. YouTube, Inc., Docket No. 10-3270-cv (2nd Cir. April 5, 2012)
The Second Circuit partially affirmed and partially reversed a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, granting summary judgment to YouTube on all claims of direct and secondary copyright infringement brought by Viacom. The district court held that YouTube qualified for safe harbor under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §512(c), which protects service providers from liability for acts of infringement by users.
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s holding that §512(c)(1)(A)’s exception to the safe harbor provision “requires knowledge or awareness of specific facts or circumstances that indicate specific and identifiable instances of infringement,” but it vacated the district court’s summary judgment order because certain internal emails within YouTube raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether it had such knowledge. The court also held that the “right and ability to control” an infringer under §512(c)(1)(B), which also creates an exception to the safe harbor provision, does not require knowledge of specific acts of infringement but requires more than vicarious liability at common law. It additionally held that willful blindness may be relevant to determinations under §512(c)(1)(A), although it is limited by the congressional mandate that safe harbor for service providers not be conditioned on monitoring. See §512(m). The court accordingly remanded the case for the district court to apply this “right and ability to control test” and address the issue of willful blindness in the first instance.
The Technology and Marketing Blog provides an overview of the case, noting that, regardless of the specific decision of the district court on remand, this decision is likely to raise litigation costs for all digital content providers seeking safe harbor under the DMCA. The New York Times Media Decoder Blog suggests that the suit has no winners, as both sides expressed lukewarm sentiments at the result and Viacom is currently pursuing a business partnership with YouTube simultaneously with this litigation. (more…)