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Court restores Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube

Many Florida residents know that legal proceedings involving major businesses can be very complex. This is the case for an ongoing lawsuit between YouTube and Viacom, which has lasted around five years. This particular business litigation involves very technical portions of copyright law.

Recently, a federal appeals court has revived Viacom's copyright lawsuit against YouTube. Within the process, the federal court indicated that a jury could potentially conclude that YouTube may have known it was infringing rights when it permitted the sharing of television programs on its site. This finding has sent a particular issue of the case back to the district court.

In the overall proceeding, Viacom argued that YouTube committed "rampant copyright infringement." Primarily, a lower court ruled that YouTube was protected from copyright infringement claims by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This provision protects a company from legal responsibility if it does not have actual knowledge of the alleged copyright infringement.

Nevertheless, at the appeals level, Viacom established that YouTube employees had conducted website surveys estimating that approximately 80 percent of all YouTube videos contained copyright material. Also, Viacom demonstrated that financial advisors from the YouTube side had previously estimated that only one-tenth of the material was authorized.

In the end, the evidence suggests that YouTube may have deliberately delayed taking down copyrighted material. As a result, the appeals court found that a doctrine known as "willful blindness" could potentially be applicable. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, this doctrine would be relevant if the company's executives made a "deliberate effort to avoid guilty knowledge." Therefore, the appeals court has sent the case back to the lower court for a resolution on whether the legal concept applies to this suit.

Viacom is not the only corporation that has sued YouTube over copyright issues. On the other hand, this pending suit is worth one billion dollars. As a result, there is no doubt that YouTube has retained a strong business litigation team that is well versed in copyright law.

Source: Mercury News, "Viacom's $1B YouTube lawsuit revived by appeals court," Larry Neumeister, April 6, 2012

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