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YouTube Prevails Against Viacom in Billion Dollar Lawsuit

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SAN FRANCISCO, June 23, 2010 -- YouTube scored a major victory in a bitterly-fought, billion dollar copyright infringement lawsuit Wednesday brought by media giant Viacom when a federal district court judge in Manhattan said that a 1998 law shields YouTube from liability.

Federal District Court Judge Louis Stanton sided with YouTube's parent company Google, and agreed with its argument that YouTube is not liable either directly or indirectly because it's protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor provision.

The provision states that a service provider isn't liable if it has no knowledge of the infringements occurring on its system, and additionally that it is shielded from liability once it acts quickly to remove the infringing material when it is aware of it.

Stanton examined both the DMCA's legislative history and case law to arrive at his conclusion.

"The present case shows that the DMCA notification regime works efficiently: When Viacom over a period of months accumulated some 100,000 videos and then sent one mass take-down notice on February 2, 2007, by the next business day YouTube had removed virtually all of them," Stanton wrote.

Viacom issued a statement saying that it disagreed with the judge's interpretation of the law and would appeal.

"This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other," wrote Kent Walker, Google's vice president and general counsel on the company's blog Wednesday afternoon. "We’re excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world."

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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