This law review article written by Jason Breen from the UCLA School of Law analyzes YouTube’s defenses to the Viacom lawsuit and, in particular, the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). The article examines each of the requirements mandated by the DMCA and how those requirements have been interpreted by the courts. It also points out where some of the court decisions appear to be inconsistent.
This article examines requirements of the DMCA that YouTube must meet in order to qualify for safe harbor protection. First, the author reviews whether YouTube accommodates “standard technical measures” used by copyright owners to identify their copyrighted works as required by section 512(i) of the DMCA. Second, as the protections of the DMCA are only available to qualified service providers, this article examines whether YouTube will qualify as a service provider and notes that the courts have broadly interpreted this provision. Third, YouTube must establish that it does not have actual or apparent knowledge of the infringing material. By providing a plethora of cases, the article concludes that the high standard of proving the provider has the requisite knowledge would likely weigh in YouTube’s favor. Fourth, according to the article, a more difficult hurdle for YouTube to meet is the requirement that YouTube not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity where it has the right and ability to control such activity. The article points out two conflicting lines of judicial reasoning regarding this two-part test. Using citations provided by this author and after reading several of these cases (some of which are included in this Annotated Bibliography), I can address in my paper how these conflicting theories might impact YouTube’s defense under the DMCA.
The author concludes that it is likely but far from certain that YouTube will be able to avail itself of the DMCA’s safe harbor in light of the uncertainties in the law and factual questions as to YouTube’s operations. This article is helpful in analyzing YouTube’s operations, Viacom’s allegations, and in providing citations to court decisions which I will read and apply to the facts of this lawsuit in order to make my own judgment as to whether YouTube should prevail under the safe harbor provision of the DMCA.
tagged copyright_culture dmca financial_benefit_test jason_breen knowledge_test service_provider standard_techincal_measures viacom youtube by kbleic ...and 1 other person ...on 22-NOV-08
In this case, Corbis, the owner of copyrighted photographs, sued Amazon.com for copyright infringement after several of Corbis’ photographs, without its consent, appeared on third party vendor platforms hosted by Amazon.com. Amazon.com’s primary defense was that it is protected from liability for the alleged copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Thus, the Corbis case is pertinent to my analysis in that many of the issues facing YouTube in meeting the requirements of the DMCA were addressed in this case.
The Corbis court addressed the DMCA’s requirements that the service provider 1) not have actual or apparent knowledge of the infringing activity and 2) not have the ability to control the content of users’ postings. The Corbis court ruled that actual knowledge requires that the copyright holder provide evidence that it notified the service provider of the specific infringing material. The court also found that Congress contemplated that apparent knowledge of infringing activity requires that the service provider turn a blind eye to red flags of “pirate sites.” For purposes of my paper, the extent to which user sites are obviously infringing will be critical to the application of the knowledge test.
The Corbis court also amplified the DMCA’s right and ability to control test. It explained that the ability to control the infringing activity cannot simply mean the ability of the service provider to remove or block access to materials posted on its website or stored in its system. According to the court, there must be some level of active involvement with content decisions. In the case of YouTube, its screening techniques and its technology for identifying and removing infringing videos will be relevant to determine whether YouTube runs afoul of this requirement.
Whether or not YouTube satisfies the requirements of the DMCA, including its level of knowledge and the ability to control infringing activity, will be fact dependent. However, the court’s analysis in Corbis and its discussion of the DMCA’s legislative history will be helpful in applying the facts of the YouTube litigation to the law.
In denying Viacom’s allegations of direct and secondary copyright infringement, YouTube will seek to obtain the protection of the safe harbor provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), 17 U.S.C. 512. A finding that YouTube satisfies the DMCA’s safe harbor requirements would immunize it from monetary damages or injunctions even if it were found to have directly or secondarily violated the copyright laws. The statute explicitly mandates a series of threshold requirements (17 U.S.C. 512(i)) and core requirements (17 U.S.C. 512(c)(1)) that a service provider must meet to be entitled to safe harbor protection. Most problematic for YouTube will be whether it meets the DMCA’s core requirements under section 512(c)(1)(A),(B), and (C). Subpart A requires that the service provider not have actual or apparent knowledge that the material on its network infringes on the rights of a copyright holder. The legislative history will be examined to determine the scope of “apparent knowledge” including an examination of the “red flag” test stated in the Congressional Reports dealing with the DMCA. Subpart B requires that the service provider not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity where it has the right and ability to control such activity. Of critical importance to Subpart B will be YouTube’s business model for generating revenue from advertisements. Subpart C requires the service provider, upon notification by the copyright holder of claimed infringement on its website, respond “expeditiously to remove” the infringing work. Both Viacom’s arguments and YouTube’s counter arguments will be examined in an effort to determine whether YouTube’s removal policy conforms to the DMCA requirements.
My paper will address some of the conflicting cases that have examined the various sections of the DMCA described above and rely on the legislative history at H.R. Rep. No. 105-551 (1998) and S. Rep. No. 105-190 (1998) to amplify congressional intent. Critical to my analysis will be the application of the facts of this lawsuit to the language of the DMCA, taking into account its legislative history, to determine whether YouTube should meet the requirements of the DMCA’s safe harbor provision.