A group of prominent Internet companies filed a “friend of the court” brief yesterday in media conglomerate Viacom’s lawsuit against Google-owned YouTube. An attorney writing on behalf of eBay, Facebook, Yahoo, and IAC (whose websites includes Citysearch, CollegeHumor, and Vimeo) urged the judge to dismiss Viacom’s suit, saying it threatens the companies’ protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Viacom, which owns MTV and Paramount Pictures, sued Google in 2007, alleging that YouTube illegally hosted 63,000 works that infringed Viacom’s copyrights. Google argued that it’s protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions. Those provisions largely insulate Internet service providers from copyright claims stemming from the activities of their users, as long as they take down infringing material when they’re notified by copyright holders.
I’ve embedded a copy of the brief (which Google provided to VentureBeat) below, but here’s the grand, introductory statement:
Plaintiffs’ [i.e., Viacom’s] legal arguments, if accepted, would retard the development of the Internet and electronic commerce, create uncertainty for service providers regarding their legal exposure for alleged infringements, and inhabit the growth and development of user-centric online models that, day after day, make the Internet and the world more democratic.
I’ve emailed Viacom asking for comment, but haven’t heard back yet. [Update A Viacom spokesperson resent the statement below.] The company emailed the following statement to Bloomberg:
The courts have been clear that creating and building a web-based business on the intellectual property of others is illegal. That is exactly what YouTube did in its formative years. Nothing in this case threatens the principles of the DMCA or the ability of legitimate Internet-based businesses to flourish.
Last month, Viacom released documents that it said supported its suit. They included an internal document pondering Google’s acquisition of YouTube, in which Google employees worried that the site could provoke a sustained lobbying effort from media companies to repeal the DMCA.