On September 14th, 2009, a Federal Judge in Los Angeles, CA threw out a Universal Music Group (UMG) lawsuit against Veoh Networks when they were found to be compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The lawsuit began three years ago, when Universal Music Group alleged that Veoh Networks had committed copyright infringement by pointing to UMG owned material on their website. For those of you unfamiliar with Veoh Networks, they are essentially a much smaller version of YouTube. Users have the ability to upload their own amateur or even professional video content as long as they own the copyright to the media involved. However, as is the case with most sites utilizing user content, illegal postings soon made their way to Veoh Networks.
When put before US District Court Judge Howard Matz, he concluded that Veoh was compliant with the “safe harbor” premise outlined in the Digital Millennium Act. He stated, “Veoh has shown that when it did acquire knowledge of allegedly infringing material, whether from Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices, informal notices, or other means, it expeditiously removed such material, and Universal Music Group has failed to rebut that showing.”
This ruling has bigger implications on the music industry as a whole. The decision clears up some ambiguities held in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A major factor in the decision of this case had to due with the way Veoh Networks removed such infringing material from their site. Essentially, when notified by the rights owners of the infringed posting(s), Veoh Networks complied and removed the videos in a timely manner. The Judge also noted a statement made at a previous court hearing between Universal and Veoh, citing: “the record presented demonstrates that Veoh has a strong DMCA policy, takes active steps to limit incidents of infringement on its website, and works diligently to keep unauthorized works off its website. In sum, Veoh has met its burden in establishing its entitlement to safe harbor for the alleged infringements here.” Such a ruling helps to establish precedence for the rapidly growing online video sharing industry.
Additionally, this case may help sway the decision on pending lawsuits. For example, the lawsuit currently involving Viacom Inc. suing Google-owned YouTube for over a billion dollars in infringement damages now has a different twist to it. Viacom alleges that YouTube is responsible for copyright infringement based on their having infringing material on their site. Following the logic of the previous case between Veoh Networks and Universal Music Group, the question now becomes whether or not YouTube has done its due diligence in taking down illegal content in a timely manner. YouTube strives to take down infringing material, but it is unknown whether the time taken to remove these infringing videos falls under the “safe harbor” premise of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
More importantly, is it practical for a website like YouTube to use valuable resources to monitor its content on their site? Such website monitoring requires an extensive use of resources and manpower to implement successfully, and it’s possible that the company could never keep up with all the infringing content being posted. However, is it fair for the rights owners to have to track down their material all over the web and then be responsible for notifying the proper authorities? I believe the answer lies somewhere in between, however it is clear that the case involving Veoh Networks’ defeating Universal Music Group settles some questions, while raising others in the battle over copyright infringement on the ever popular online video sharing websites.
By Brian Orlando
Resnikoff, Paul. “DMCA Okay: Court Tosses Universal Music Case Against Veoh… — Digital Music News.” Digital Music News. 14 Sept. 2009. Web. 06 Oct. 2009.
Gannes, Liz. “Court Throws Out UMG Lawsuit Against Veoh.” NewTeeVee. 14 Sept. 2009. Web. 06 Oct. 2009.