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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Different Interpretations of YouTube Ruling

Less than 2 weeks ago the Second Circuit Court of Appeals handed out a very important decision in the lawsuit that involved Viacom and Google, about massive copyright violation on the YouTube network. The case was revived, to the satisfaction of Viacom, but it turned out that future litigants and judges can interpret the ruling differently.


Now the rights owners and their legal targets discuss the meaning of what the appellate circuit said in the decision. Last week the MPAA expressed its own opinion, while Hotfile’s attorneys replied that the plaintiffs were just trying to put a “brave face” on the ruling.

Currently, Hollywood studios are pushing for a summary judgment against Hotfile, comparing it with MegaUpload. The outfit pointed at 4 key points in the ruling. First of all, it said that ISPs can obtain knowledge of copyright violation, which disqualifies them from DMCA safe harbor, because they are willfully blind to infringement. Then, the ruling stressed that Grokster inducement responsibility depends on purposeful, culpable expression and conduct, confirming that such conduct was inconsistent with DMCA safe harbor protection. In addition, the defendants’ argument was rejected saying that the higher DMCA standard for “ability to control” must be applied to common law vicarious violation too. Finally, the decision reaffirmed that ISPs are able to obtain knowledge of infringing activity which disqualifies them from DMCA safe harbor from sources other than rights holder takedown notices.

However, Hotfile has a different interpretation of the ruling, saying that plaintiffs have submitted a filing which badly distorts the important aspects of the decision. Hotfile agrees with YouTube “blindness”, but only in specific cases of copyright violation. In addition, when talking about the “right and ability to control”, the MPAA is accused of supporting the idea that DMCA safe harbors can’t be applied to those who possibly maintain inducement liability. In other words, the MPAA was trying to “camouflage” the fact that the court actually disagreed with them on this provision of the DMCA.

As you can see, the parties each read elements of the ruling to support their respective causes. Although it is not surprising, there is surprisingly too little clarity in what the judges at the appellate circuit had to say. 

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