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Don’t Turn YouTube Into The Boob-Tube, Plead Its Users

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SAN FRANCISCO, June 1, 2010 - A group of individuals who have successfully used YouTube to gain prominence in their fields on Friday jumped into the legal fight between media giants Viacom and Google to persuade a federal district court judge that YouTube is a legitimate tool rather than a tool used primarily to pirate popular forms of televised and filmed entertainment.

The group includes aspiring musicians, actors, comedians, media professionals, non-profits, and a former hedge-fund manager who's using YouTube to create educational videos. They're pleading with the court to focus on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor provisions, which exempt an online service provider from the infringing activities of their users if the service provider promptly removes the material that it's received a complaint about, under certain conditions.

"If YouTube is made responsible for everything that we say, then naturally YouTube will want to exercise control over what we say," said the members of the coalition in a filing with the federal district court for the Southern District of New York.

Viacom filed a billion dollar lawsuit against Google's YouTube in 2007 alleging that it was responsible for the millions of clips of infringing material that its users had uploaded to the site, and that the company's founders had encouraged such activity. The members of the "Sideshow Coalition" worry that YouTube will lose its freewheeling nature and its user-generated focus if Viacom prevails. They point to their own unfettered, successful uses of the tool as examples of how important YouTube's current role is in fostering open communications and new opportunities.

The friend-of-the-court brief is one of several other briefs that have been on both sides of the issue. Yahoo, Facebook and eBay have filed in support of Google. NBC Universal, Warner Brothers, the Association of American Publishers and others in the field of content creation have filed in support of Viacom.

Sarah Lai Stirland was Contributing Editor for until April 2011. She has covered business, finance and legal affairs, telecommunications and tech policy for 15 years from New York, Washington and San Francisco. She has written for Red Herring, National Journal's Technology Daily, and She's a native of London and Hong Kong, and is currently based in San Francisco.

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