In Donna Wentworth's 2004 Op-ed piece, "Dumb and Dumber: Why the Movie Industry Shouldn't Do as the Recording Industry has Done" strongly cautions Hollywood to stray away from actions taken by the music industry regarding file sharing. Wentworth points out that in 2003, movie studios profited heavily from the $41.6 billion in revenues, and enjoyed the second largest culmination of box office totals ever. Wentworth is mystified as to why the industry, and specifically the MPAA, is so worried that film piracy will destroy their business. According to her, the 6,000 lawsuits filed by the recording industry to target file sharing did little to impede illegal music downloads. The "pre-emptive strike agenda," as Wentworth calls it, will likewise be a lost cause in suppressing the prevalence of peer-to-peer file sharing, and will alienate the consumer. Wentworth goes on to reference the famous case concerning VCR use and copyright. The fact that the VCR was deemed legal in all homes allowed for Hollywood to restructure their business model, and reap the profits from VHS rentals. Wentworth also says that the digital age is no different as DVD's often make more money than their box office total. Though Wentworth makes some interesting points, I think that her statements leave a lot of statistical information to be desired. MPAA statistics show that the movie business is in fact suffering in the billions for online film piracy. This doesn't mean that the industry will go out of business in its entirety, but it does effect the output of films significantly. No doubt, the carbon copy superhero and animated films will still be green-lit, but it is the independent and more artistic films that will suffer.
DVDs are protected by a security system called the Contents Scramble System, which prevents unauthorized use and copying of the encoded material. Thus, only devices that have the CSS key can play these videos. In this lawsuit, eight major movie studios sued Jeraimee Hughes for disseminating a software device, called DeCSS, that can bypass this protective shield. Hughes posted this application on his Internet site, advertising that DeCSS is a "free DVD decoder that allows people ot copy DVDs." This violates the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1988. Regardless of whether or not people utlize such a device, it is illegal to provide technology that circumvents a code that is intended for copyright protection.
There have been a series of other lawsuits against individuals who have also distributed DeCSS through the web. They argue that their actions are lawful under the First Amendment and constitute as fair use under the Copyright Act. Whereas the First Amendment right defense is more complex, the fair use argument is baseless. The defendants are not being sued for copyright infringement but are being sued for providing an illegal encryption decoder. In the case against Hughes, and generally speaking for most of these lawsuits, the defendant was found guilty.
Because my paper explores the digital advancements that pose a threat to the movie industry and how the industry has responded, this case serves as a perfect example of both. Piracy has become more advanced due to digital technologies. Individuals can create devices that can crack security codes and promulgate the information via the web. In order to counter these efforts, the movie industry must take legal action to prevent others from doing the same. Although the movie industry is also improving upon digital means for protection, it seems at this point that hackers will always remain a threat, and therefore must be stopped by the law.
NOTE: This article is difficult to find on Lexis-Nexis. You must do a powersearch and specify "UCLA Entertainment Law Review" as your source.
This is a journal article in the UCLA Entertainment Law Review. The article is by Kristy Wiehe, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal. This article examines how the RIAA uses copyright law to sue individuals, and whether or not the RIAA’s interpretation of the law is correct. The author first describes how P2P file-sharing programs work, explaining that most of them scan the user’s computer for media files, and place these files in a “shared” folder that is uploaded to the P2P network. When the files are uploaded to the network, the user is making the files available for other users to download. The RIAA claims that if these files are copyrighted material, then this “making available” is defined as copyright infringement. In the Napster case in 2001, the court agreed with the RIAA’s view. The author, however, disagrees with the RIAA’s interpretation of the law. She contends that copyright law says it is illegal to distribute copies in the form of material objects to the public, and that the RIAA should have to prove that an actual transfer of the copyrighted material took place from one user to another. Parts of copyright law are quoted in the article to make this point. She believes that without a definitive “transfer of ownership,” the RIAA should not be able to sue someone. The RIAA believes that the “making available” of files is considered distribution, and this is the fundamental disagreement between the RIAA and the author.
In addition, the author compares the use of these lawsuits to stop file-sharing to an “effort to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.” The problem is so large that suing a few individuals will most likely not fix it. The solution proposed in the article is for the record companies to make it “economically rational” for consumers to pay for music files instead of downloading them illegally. She suggests pricing that asymptotically approaches zero as the number of songs purchased increases. Therefore, if a person downloads thousands of songs, they won’t have to make extremely high payments.
I strongly agree with the author’s interpretation of copyright law, and I believe that the record companies should have to present more proof than a file being in a “shared folder” in order to file a lawsuit. Also, the P2P programs should eliminate their scanning programs because there is a significant chance that they could incriminate an unknowing person who has legally obtained copyrighted work and stored it on his or her computer. Proof of a transfer should be necessary for a lawsuit, and it is also questionable whether or not an mp3 file is a “material object.” People are being sued without concrete proof of infringement, and the RIAA needs to be stopped from abusing the law to gain money. This argument will be part of my contention that these suits are unfair.
The author’s suggested business solution may be unfair to the record companies, but these companies certainly need to focus on making large-scale changes to their sales techniques.
This is a newspaper article by Amy Brittain that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on June 18, 2007. The article provides basic statistics about the RIAA’s file sharing lawsuits, makes an argument in support of the RIAA, and gives examples of solutions being implemented at some universities. The article says that since 1999, physical music sales have declined 30 percent, and that two-thirds of college students’ music was illegally obtained. Recording companies have suffered millions of dollars in losses, and the author reminds us that, “For every one Justin Timberlake, there are hundreds of sound-technicians, backup singers, and retail workers who are hurt by illegal downloading.” As a result of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in 1998, universities are protected from file-sharing lawsuits, and this is why individual students are being sued.
Some universities have tried to solve the problem by forcing students to install programs that block the use of P2P programs, and others have started to use campus-wide filters that “stop the flow” of copyrighted material.
This article is important to my paper because it gives examples of possible solutions that, in my opinion, are completely unfair to the students. These solutions are the exact WRONG way to solve the file-sharing problem. Blocking P2P programs is unfair because they can be used in many legal ways. Students should be allowed to share non-copyrighted material over the internet as much as they please. That is one of the basic functions of the internet. This right should not be taken away because the RIAA is unhappy. Also, where would these types of restrictions end? Would universities eventually block email programs because copyrighted music files can be distributed by email? Filters that block the distribution of copyrighted material are a better idea. But what if the student has a fair use for the copyrighted material? Shouldn’t he or she have access to this material to use in projects or presentations for media studies classes?
This article’s argument in favor of the RIAA goes against my thesis, but it does make sense. There are many people who are hurt by copyright infringement, which is unfortunate, but a FAIR solution must be implemented to help these people.
This is a document called RIAA v. The People: Two Years Later, which is on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website. It was written in 2005, which is two years after the file sharing lawsuits started. The article provides information about the legality of the lawsuits along with their results, and it also shares personal stories about individuals who have been sued. One interesting note is that the RIAA used to offer amnesty to anyone who deleted their copyrighted files and signed an agreement to stop file sharing, but some of these people were sued anyway. The RIAA was sued for false advertising.
The EFF wants the public to know that the people being sued are chosen randomly, and there is no end in sight to the flood of lawsuits. The lawsuits have not worked at all, and “Today, downloading from P2P networks is more popular than ever, despite the widespread public awareness of the lawsuits.” The number of P2P users increases every month. 89 percent of high school students reported that they knew file-sharing was against the law, and that they would continue doing it anyway. The EFF suggests cutting the prices of songs on iTunes (because there are 35 times as many songs downloaded illegally as there are downloaded on iTunes), or having the record companies collectively license music to individuals for a flat fee of around five dollars a month.
The EFF shares the stories of many people who have been sued and are in terrible financial situations, to elicit the sympathy of the public. For example, a 71 year-old grandfather was sued, along with a 12 year-old girl who had a single mother.
This document is extremely useful to my argument because it provides statistical evidence that the lawsuits have not slowed down file sharing, which was their goal. The RIAA wanted to use the lawsuits to educate people, but people clearly don’t care about the legality of their downloading. P2P programs are extremely easy to design, and even if they add filters to the popular ones, other unfiltered applications will be created eventually. The RIAA needs to take drastic action in the form of large-scale licensing, or their problems will never be solved.
While I agree with the EFF on most accounts, I strongly disagree with their use of sob-stories to promote their views. It is unfortunate that some people with very little income were sued by the RIAA, but a person’s financial situation should not affect whether or not they are sued. If the RIAA is going to file lawsuits, they should sue the users with the most copyrighted material, regardless of their income. The whole strategy of using lawsuits to stop file sharing, however, just doesn’t seem like it will ever work. And hopefully, ISPs and universities will do their best to protect the identities of their users.
This is an article from November, 2001 in the Duke Law Journal. The article is by Albert Z. Kovacs, and it questions the morality of the people who share copyrighted material. The author uses a psychological argument to condemn anyone who uses the internet to steal songs, and says something must be done to change people’s mindsets. He explains that in cyberspace, people’s identities are taken away. They are identified only by an IP address, and not by a name. They believe that no one can see their actions, and that no one can find out who they are. He says that this is called “depersonalization.” People want music to be free, and use file-sharing networks to get it, but this doesn’t make it morally right. The author blames people’s attitudes about file-sharing on internet discourse. For example, when someone downloads copyrighted material it is referred to as “sharing,” and not as theft. Because music is available through these networks, people’s views are changed to the point at which they believe stealing is ok. The proposed solution in this article is a display of power by the RIAA. Kovacs explains, “The wild horse must be broken before it can be trusted alone in its stable.” He means that people will stop stealing music once they are extremely scared of the consequences.
This article is very thought provoking and it made me reconsider my stance against the RIAA. I still think their lawsuits are arbitrary and unfair, but their intentions now seem to be legitimized. For example, I don’t feel guilty downloading copyrighted music, but I would never walk into a record store and steal a CD. Part of the reason many people are against the RIAA is because they want free music, but if we know what we are doing is morally wrong, why shouldn’t we be sued? If I were in the recording artists’ shoes, I would want to be fairly compensated for my work. This being said, even though I understand the RIAA’s intentions, I still think their actual lawsuits are not the best way to achieve their goals. They choose random people to sue for unfair amounts, and this seems like nothing more than a strategy to scare people. I think there is a better way to solve the problem, but I understand the RIAA’s frustration.
This is an entry from Charles Nesson’s blog. Nesson is a law professor at Harvard University, and he is defending a man named Joel Tenenbaum who was sued for file sharing. Nesson and Tenenbaum filed a countersuit against the RIAA, because the amount Tenenbaum would have to pay for damages would be over $1 million, which they believe to be unconstitutional. In the entry, Nesson criticizes the fact that in 1976, lawyers and lobbyists created laws for the future of digital media, and that we must still abide by those today. He is fighting not only the RIAA, but also the court system that is exerting power on behalf of the RIAA. Nesson believes that claiming high damages is abusing the law. He instructs us to, “Observe that the disproportion between actual damage caused by joel to the copyright holder and the damage mandated by the legislature to be given the copyright holder is in inverse proportion to the lobbying power of the copyright industry in the legislature compared to the lobbying power of joel and the teenagers like him who are meant to be frightened by the punitive damages being imposed.”
Nesson believes that people should legally be able to share music non-commercially, and that the public domain should consist of anything one can get for free on the Internet. He thinks that the RIAA is trying to “manipulate the public mind to equate file sharing with theft.”
I agree with Nesson on most of his points, and his ideas are probably the most important source to my paper. The laws relating to copyrighted digital files need to be changed, and lobbyists should not be involved. Right now, I believe that the RIAA is using the courts as its hitmen. The courts are intimidating teenagers and carrying out every one of the RIAA’s orders. This needs to be stopped, and fair practices need to be implemented; not the ones that rich copyright lobbyists push for. The people being sued need a voice, and Charles Nesson has bravely taken that role. The RIAA should not be using the courts to carry out an intimidation tactic, and the argument can be made that these cases should be tried in criminal, and not civil court.
Nesson believes that file sharing is not theft, which is his most debatable opinion. From the RIAA’s perspective, their music is being stolen. Are they guilty of manipulating us to believe this? Or are Internet discourse and a desire for free media guilty of making us believe that it isn’t theft? Both sides must be taken into account.
Even if file sharing is considered theft, though, the damages being claimed are way too high. This part of the law is definitely unconstitutional, and the laws need to be changed to accommodate today’s technology. I am rooting for Nesson’s success.
Judge Stanton ruled in favor of Viacom in some aspects of his decision and in favor of Youtube in others. In favor of Youtube, he denied Viacom access to Youtube’s search code, noting that it is a trade secret that cost Youtube thousands of man-hours to produce and that it will not help Viacom determine the extent to which Youtube is liable. This decision came after numerous programming experts testified that there is currently no search code in existence with the ability to distinguish between copyrighted and non-copyrighted works. Similarly, the judge denied Viacom access to the Video ID Program. The judge also denied Viacom’s request for access to all videos currently available on the Youtube servers. Viacom claimed this would help them determine how much knowledge Youtube had relating to infringing videos, but Youtube’s response that they have been entirely accommodating to Viacom’s requests was favored by the judge. The judge stated that there is “no compelling need…to justify the analysis of millions of pieces of information.” The judge similarly denied access to the Advertising Schema, stating that this was both a trade secret and not necessary information. However, the judge favored with Viacom in many aspects, in an attempt to allow them to research how much power Youtube has over infringing videos on its website. He mandated that Youtube produce information about all videos that have already been removed so as to determine the amount of copyright infringing videos that have been available in the past. Most interestingly, he allowed Viacom access to all information about who has viewed which videos and how many times they have been viewed. This includes IP addresses, screen names, and videos viewed for every user. Viacom states that this will allow them to know, proportionally, whether copyrighted videos are typically viewed more often or less often than non-copyrighted videos. The judge also allowed Viacom access to the Google Video Content database so as to allow Viacom to determine Youtube’s knowledge of infringing activity.
This decision is interesting because it details the opinions of a judge who has considered both Viacom and Youtube’s opinions. He allows Youtube to retain several of its valuable coding secrets, but makes large concessions to Viacom to allow them to determine Youtube’s knowledge of infringing material. The reason for this decision can likely be linked to the relatively young age of cases like this. The DMCA has only been active for 10 years and many aspects of website liability for users infringing on copyrights are still uncertain. By allowing Viacom access to Youtube video records, the court is essentially hoping that Viacom will either show that Youtube is guilty of indirect liability or that Youtube has no control over the infringement beyond its current efforts. Thus, the impact of this court decision will likely come from Viacom’s analysis of Youtube video information. In my paper, I plan to further examine the same topic: whether or not Youtube is completely free from liability for infringing material.
The author, in this entry from a Web 2.0-centric blog, details Youtube’s recent efforts to both appease copyright holders and to promote creativity amongst its users. In January 2007, Youtube unveiled plans for a Revenue Sharing program which would give certain Youtube users a portion of ad revenue Youtube receives based on the number of hits their videos garner. Youtube will give even higher exposure to users labeled as “Directors,” people who are allowed to upload films greater than 10 minutes in length. Similarly, Youtube will share revenue with some copyright holders based on ad money they receive for the viewing of infringing videos. The author discusses the possibility that Youtube will have to increase the number of ads it shows to make up for the profit lost from the Revenue Sharing Program. This leads to the dilemma of Youtube losing viewers if advertisements begin to show up before minute-long clips. To increase the effectiveness of heightened advertising, Youtube may have to adopt a TV style model in which “an advertiser pays Youtube (and thus the content creator) X amount for every viewing.” To appease advertisers, Youtube’s new Audio Fingerprinting technology could be used to prevent inappropriate videos from being paired with reputable brands. This would be similar to Google Adsense which provides targeted advertising to firms. The problem relates to copyright because if Youtube adopts targeted advertising, which it has recently begun to do, it will be receiving revenue for ads placed in front of infringing videos for which it does not have deals settled with the copyright holders, thus increasing the possibility of them being vicariously liable. The solution, the author notes, is to use Audio Fingerprinting to detect copyrighted material and then inform the copyright holder, who will have the option to either remove the material or share revenue gained from the video with Youtube.
This system could potentially solve the problem of both Youtube and the copyright holder losing money from various transactions. Youtube loses money when it devotes bandwidth and time to a video only to have the video deleted due to a takedown notice. Similarly, the holder loses money wasting man hours filing takedown notices and finding the actual infringing material. If both groups work together, as Youtube intends, companies will be much less likely to sue Youtube, especially if they are actually making money from infringing videos posted online. Similarly, Youtube decreases its chance of liability because it is increasing its promotion of original works by paying some users. By offering directors a part of the revenue earned from their original and creative works, Youtube is encouraging users to make their own films rather than simply splicing together copyrighted material (which leads to zero profit for users). Thus, with the adoption of the revenue sharing plan detailed above, Youtube has simultaneously appeased the copyright holders and expanded its promotion of original material, showing courts that there are indeed significant “non-infringing” uses for Youtube.
The article extensively illustrates the development of Web 2.0 and the emergence of Youtube as one of the most popular websites on the internet. The author then summarizes Youtube’s liability protection under the Fair Harbor law. My interest in this article, however, stems from its discussion of the filtering software used by Youtube. “Youtube recently unveiled a video identification service which would create digital fingerprints of material that content providers wish to have protected.” If a video is uploaded to Youtube that matches the fingerprint of a copyrighted work, the owner can request that it be removed. Extensive tests have already been conducted: in one case, the system caught 18 instances of infringement after a service uploaded over 4400 hours of content to Youtube. After a copyright owner identifies infringing work, it can either have the material pulled or, even more incredibly, have its own advertisements added to the video. This technology is very appealing to Youtube because adopting it will show courts that it is doing all it can to remove copyrighted material. However, several factors make this protection unappealing. First, the “fingerprints” rely on a library of original content with which to match against infringing content. Thus, copyright owners will have to provide an extensive library of material to Youtube before being able to find their illegally uploaded material on Youtube. It is similarly unclear whether this technology will be able to identify slightly altered versions of original clips uploaded to the website. Fair Use advocates are equally concerned that the software will remove their own Fair Use works, mistaking them for infringing material.
This is an important article because it discusses Youtube as a company increasingly working for the Copyright holding companies rather than for its own users. Youtube is constantly in danger of copyright litigation: even the DMCA will not protect the company if plaintiffs can prove that Youtube is directly benefitting financially from copyrighted content. By signing deals with content owners that allow the owners to add advertisements to any of their content that was illegally uploaded, Youtube has cleverly created a way to profit from illegal content. Youtube also signed agreements with content owners to provide studio shows and clips on its services. This mitigates the temptation for users to upload illegal videos, especially if they can watch the legal version on the exact same website. However, by blindly implementing filtering software that automatically flags seemingly copyrighted material, Youtube may be dooming Fair Use works. Rather, Youtube should alter the filtering software so that it only flags videos that are either entirely made up of one video clip or contain a part of a copyrighted video with the corresponding audio from that clip playing as well. Many Fair Use artists will take the video but not the audio portion of a clip and mix it with other clips. Youtube can thus appease the studios and courts while still emphasizing the importance of its community of users, whom it built the website for in the first place.
In early 2007, Stephanie Lenz recorded a video of her children dancing to the song “Let’s Go Crazy” recorded by Prince. She uploaded the recording to Youtube and, roughly three months later, received a takedown notice from Youtube notifying her that the video infringed on a copyright held by Universal Music. Lenz issued a complaint stating that the video was actually a Fair Use of Prince’s music and should therefore be put back onto Youtube. She said her video was not taken down based “on a particular characteristic of the video or any good-faith belief that it actually infringed a copyright,” but rather Prince’s personal desire to control all of his work. The plaintiffs in this case accept that the video includes elements that are under copyright by Prince and Universal. Their argument is whether or not the Digital Millennium Copyright Act “requires a copyright owner to consider the fair use doctrine in formulating a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.” The judge in this case noted that no other court case has actually determined the merits of whether the phrase quoted above pertains to Fair Use. The judge determined that, despite no previous ruling, Fair Use is not an infringement of copyright and is a lawful use of the copyright. The court thus ordered that a brief review of potentially infringing material must be completed by content owners prior to sending a Takedown notice, to ensure whether it is a Fair Use.
This decision strengthens my paper’s argument that many potentially infringing videos on Youtube may, in fact, be examples of Fair Use. While only a small percentage of songs available on file sharing websites could be constituted as Fair Use due to the skill required to sufficiently transform songs, many videos on Youtube may be shielded from unwarranted takedown notices because of this ruling, due to the fact that transforming and mashing video clips is much easier than transforming songs. The complaint that a large portion of Youtube’s videos are copyright infringing and that Youtube encourages such videos is thus proven false. In reality, many of these “infringing” videos actually make up the user-generated content that embodies the spirit of Youtube: a community of Web 2.0 users producing unique and individual content to share with others. Had this decision not been made, unchecked takedown notices could have harmed time-sensitive and important videos that were actually examples of Fair Use. While Universal argued that this checking for Fair Use is an unnecessary waste of time, the Judge was quick to point out that the Copyright Act of 1976 established 4 simple, quick factors for determining Fair Use. This decision upholds the hard work of individuals who successfully transform copyrighted material, and it prevents large corporations and recording artists from overreaching their bounds by unfairly removing Fair Use videos. Youtube’s legitimacy as a website made up of a majority of unique material is thus upheld.
Mark Cuban, creator of Broadcast.com and outspoken opponent of Youtube, directly compares Youtube to the original Napster website in this blog entry. He attributes Youtube’s quick success to two specific sources: “Free Hosting from any 3rd Party Site” and “Copyrighted music and video.” He goes on to make direct comparisons between Grokster, Napster, and Youtube. Napster was “the first to tell you it [pirating] wasn’t illegal.” He argues that the only reason Youtube hasn’t been brought to court multiple times already is that the studios are not sure what having so many clips available illegally means for them financially. Similarly to Napster, once the lawsuits begin, they will not stop until the service is forced to shut down. He observes that Youtube is remarkably similar to Napster, because users can simply open as many Youtube pages containing copyrighted songs as they want, and then listen to the songs as they would on Napster. Youtube will be hurt not just by lawsuits, but also by the wide availability of copyrighted content in legal online channels, such as NBC making clips available on its own site. Cuban states that as soon as Youtube is sued by copyright holders, it will be forced to find and remove all infringing content. This will leave the site, he argues, devoid of most appealing content.
While Cuban is correct in noting that there is a large amount of copyrighted material available on Youtube, he fails to take into account several key details. First, he states that Youtube will be sued for inducing others to commit infringement, just as Napster and Grokster were sued. Unlike Youtube, however, Napster and Youtube advertised themselves as sites which allowed users to download any music they wanted. They actually did induce users to visit the site for the purpose of downloading infringing material, whereas Youtube encourages users to visit its site to host user-generated content, evident from its slogan of “Broadcast Yourself.” Cuban also suggests that after copyrighted material such as TV shows is widely available in other locations and once copyright holders begin ordering their content to be removed, Youtube would be devoid of any content to set it apart from competitors. However, sites like Hulu, Joost, and services run by major Television studios have been online for over a year and Youtube is as popular as ever. This debunks the argument that Youtube would be unappealing once its copyright material was removed and other legal video-viewing services were established. Rather, users still visit the site for non-copyrighted material, and it continues to thrive, having just signed several deals itself with major content creators and TV Studios. Cuban’s main oversight is in the DMCA. He completely fails to take into account the fact that the DMCA Safe Harbor law removes Youtube from direct liability for any infringing videos that are posted on its service, so long as it removes them upon request of the copyright holder.
Tim Wu from Slate Magazine discusses the development of legal protection against copyright infringement for internet-based services. He argues that Youtube may be safer from copyright litigation than many might believe. He notes that “in the early 1990s…Hollywood and the recording industry worked hard to make Internet companies responsible for any…copyright infringement that happened via the Internet.” Had this view, the idea that internet companies are liable for any infringement that occurs on their sites, been adopted by Congress, few if any Web 2.0 companies would exist today. Fortunately, Lobbyists working for firms controlling a large portion of internet traffic worked to convince Congress that “copyright law threatens to put a damper on the expression of ideas on the internet.” This forced Hollywood to settle for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects “Information Residing on Systems or Networks At Direction of Users,” or in other words, sites using user-generated content. These sites are protected by the Safe Harbor clause in the DMCA which protects content sites and ISPs so long as they comply with takedown requests submitted by copyright holders. Wu notes that Youtube may be liable if it prosecutors can prove that it is aware of specific infringing material on its site. It may also be liable due to the fact that there is a search option on its services. Wu’s most interesting argument, however, is the idea that Hollywood and the recording industry may actually be fonder of the DMCA than previously believed. He states that these industries get the best of both worlds: if they do not want a clip on Youtube, they can simply issue a takedown notice and have the offending clip removed. If the infringing clip appears to be giving a boost to TV or music ratings, however, they can simply allow the clip to remain on Youtube. Thus, Youtube is protected by the idea of “tolerated use” rather than something like “fair use.” While sites like Grokster were not covered under the Safe Harbor law, Youtube is protected by this provision of the DMCA.
Wu accurately conveys the crucial role that the DMCA plays in protecting internet content sites and ISPs, which is a crucial argument in my paper. Had the DMCA never been created, Internet sites could be just as liable for copyright infringing content as stores are for selling physical pieces of copyright infringing material. However, the lawmakers clearly anticipated the importance of user-generated content for e-commerce and thus created a protection clause for sites like Youtube. While Wu mentions that Youtube may be liable for its “search” tools, a similar clause in the DMCA may equally protect Youtube from prosecution for this feature. 512D states that sites which allow users to search for material are not liable for any copyright infringing items that users locate using search options. Thus, the DMCA successfully anticipates many aspects of these Web 2.0 sites and prevents content industries from suing services like Youtube.
The article by Mr. Cloak discusses the evolution of online copyright cases in the pre-DMCA era. Before the DMCA, there was very little protection from liability for online user-generated services. The first case to test website liability in copyright infringement was Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Frena. Frena owned an online message board service that allowed its users to post messages and pictures to share with others. One user uploaded over 100 images copyrighted by Playboy. Playboy consequently sued Frena for copyright infringement, despite that fact that Frena had not actually uploaded the pictures himself. The court ruled that Frena was liable for the infringement, failing to note that Frena simply ran a service allowing others to upload images. The case of Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-line Communications Services advanced the Frena ruling when the Church of Scientology sued Netcom for allowing unpublished Scientology writings to be posted on its services. The court judged that Netcom was not directly liable for this infringement because it had not directly facilitated the infringement. Rather, its software had automatically uploaded the infringing material without the knowledge of the operators. While Netcom was not liable for direct infringement, the court noted that it might be liable for another type of infringement. A website could be liable for Vicarious Liability if it receives direct financial benefit from the infringing material and has the ability to control infringement. Similarly, it could be guilty of Contributory Infringement if it has subjective knowledge of the infringement and substantially participates in the infringement.
The aforementioned types of liability have been mentioned in multiple copyright cases, such as the Napster case. With the advent of the DMCA and the Safe Harbor law, a service like Youtube is increasingly safe from direct liability. Youtube, however, could be held Vicariously Liable: it receives ad revenue in proportion to the number of users; if the number of copyrighted videos increases, its ad revenue will increase. Youtube has also developed filtering software, giving it the ability to control copyrighted material. For this reason, it could still theoretically be vicariously liable. Youtube could also be liable for Contributory Infringement because it has knowledge of infringement on its site (evident from the numerous takedown notices it receives). However, by demonstrating sufficient non-infringing uses of its services, like Betamax, it can escape Contributory Liability by being labeled a “staple article of commerce.” As Mr. Cloak states, “subjecting YouTube to liability from copyright owners could destroy a major facilitator of American creativity.” At the same time, authors have the right to control their works. Thus, the DMCA establishes a perfect medium by protecting online services from direct liability for allowing their users to upload anything, while also allowing copyright owners to request their work be removed if they wish. Subjecting Youtube to liability for simply allowing creativity to thrive on its servers should not be allowed, unless Youtube is proven to be guilt via vicarious or contributory means.
On March 13, 2007, Viacom International Inc. filed a class action lawsuit against Youtube claiming massive copyright infringement by the defendant. Viacom filed the suit after sending takedown notices to Youtube demanding over 150,000 copyrighted videos be removed from its servers. In its complaint, Viacom notes “millions have seized the opportunities digital technology provides to express themselves creatively.” However, Viacom argues that Youtube has “harnessed technology to willfully infringe copyrights on a huge scale.” Youtube, the complaint urges, has built a library of infringing video clips in order to increase profit. Rather than attempting to remove all infringing videos, Youtube “has decided to shift the burden entirely onto copyright owners to monitor the Youtube site…to detect infringing videos and send takedown notices to Youtube.” Viacom claims that Youtube increases its own value at the expense of copyright holders through the following methods: displaying advertisements above infringing videos, allowing users to embed infringing files onto other websites to draw users to Youtube and subsequently increase ad revenue, and permitting users to keep copyrighted videos hidden from the public. Viacom also notes that Youtube hosts the videos on its own servers, rather than simply acting as a conduit through which users pass files. This, in Viacom’s interpretation, makes Youtube the primary copyright infringer as it is the entity that is actually “performing” the copyrighted footage.
Youtube is one of the more influential websites in the development of Web 2.0. The website has essentially ushered in a new age of internet democratization by giving all users the ability to create and host content. Viacom’s complaint fails to take several important copyright issues into account, however, decreasing the lawsuit’s validity in several key issues. First and foremost, it assumes that Youtube has a clear intention of hosting copyright infringing content. While the court decided that Grokster, in MGM Studios v. Grokster, did not have sufficient non-infringing uses to escape liability, Youtube was developed as a website where average internet users can upload home videos. When asked about a memory associated with Youtube, users will typically discuss a humorous home movie they saw rather than an illegal movie clip. Similarly, Viacom assumes that Youtube is responsible for policing its site for all copyrighted material, failing to mention the DMCA once in the lawsuit. The Safe Harbor clause of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, however, removes service providers from liability for any copyrighted material that users upload to their servers, specifically if the content provider removes material that a copyright holder insists is infringing. Youtube immediately removes material upon receipt of a takedown notice, typically without even ensuring that the entity which issued the notice is actually the copyright holder. Youtube is similarly protected by the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act, which protects sites which do not induce others to commit copyright infringement. Rather, Youtube encourages users to produce their own works.