This won’t resolve Viacom v. Google, or any of the other knotty copyright disputes roiling the Web. But it’s certainly going to give sites like YouTube (GOOG) legal ammunition: A U.S. District judge in San Jose has ruled for video site Veoh in a copyright case filed by porn producer Io Group.
Io, best known to its customers as Titan Media, sued Veoh in 2006, after clips from several of its movies showed up on the video site. Rather than asking Veoh to remove them, Io sued.
The complete ruling is embedded below. But the here’s the Cliff Notes summary: The court ruled that Veoh wasn’t liable for copyright violations on its site because it is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which more or less means:
- Veoh isn’t the one putting copyrighted material on its site — its users are.
- Veoh doesn’t know what its users are uploading.
- Veoh will take down copyrighted materials if owners complain.
- Veoh is trying hard to filter out copyrighted materials.
Most interesting to us was the distinction the court made between Veoh (and, presumably sites like YouTube) and piracy havens like Napster 1.0 and Grokster, etc. Napster was designed to facilitate piracy, the ruling says. But there are plenty of legimate uses for Veoh that don’t involve piracy:
Veoh is distinct from Napster in at least one significant respect. Napster existed solely to provide the site and facilities for copyright infringement, and its control over its system was directly intertwined with its ability to control infringing activity… by contrast, Veoh’s right and ability to control its system does not equate to the right and ability to control infringing activity. Unlike Napster, there is no suggestion that Veoh aims to encourage copyright infringement on its system. And, there is no evidence that Veoh can control what content users choose to upload before it is uploaded. Plaintiff suggests that Veoh should be required to prescreen every submission before it is published. However, Veoh has submitted evidence indicating that it has received hundreds of thousands of video files from users.
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