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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Online Video-Sharing Sites Score Copyright Victory

Picture_17_2 Online video-sharing sites are scoring another major legal victory, as a federal judge is ruling that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects such sites from copyright violations if they abide by takedown notices as the DMCA prescribes.

The case was brought by Universal Music Group, which claimed that San Diego-based Veoh -- financially backed by Time Warner and Michael Eisner – engaged in wanton copyright infringement because it allowed users to upload and store the music concern's copyrighted videos. U.S. District Judge Howard Matz agreed with Veoh that its business model complied with the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act's so-called safe harbor provisions.

The case is similar to other suits targeting YouTube, MySpace, MP3Tunes and others. And it marks just the second time that a federal judge has ruled the DMCA protects video-sharing sites – even user-generated sites like Veoh that transform user-uploaded content into flash-formatted videos that can later be accessed by users.

U.S. District Judge Howard Matz, citing the DMCA's language, ruled (.pdf) that copyright law precludes monetary liability on a service provider "for infringement of copyright by reason of the storage at the discretion of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider."

Matz noted that in order to win immunity under the DMCA, the service provider, in this case Veoh, must not have "actual knowledge" of the infringing material and, among other things, "must expeditiously remove or disable access to material if it is notified that the material is infringing or is the subject of infringing activity."

Veoh scored its first victory in August, when a San Jose magistrate dismissed a lawsuit with similar allegations brought by porn company IO Group.

Both rulings are not binding on other judges, however. And neither the U.S. appellate courts nor the U.S. Supreme Court has directly addressed the issue.

Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's take by Fred von Lohmann on the topic.