Judge Rules in Favor of YouTube Over Viacom

Viacom's $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against Google's video-sharing site YouTube has been dismissed by the court, ending for now an acrimonious legal battle between the companies that has been going on for more than three years. [Read Viacom vs. Google's YouTube: What's in it for You.]

Judge Louis L. Stanton, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, granted Google's motion for summary judgment on Wednesday.

"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. 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," wrote Kent Walker, Google vice president and general counsel, in an official blog post.

Viacom didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Viacom hit Google in March 2007 with a $1 billion lawsuit over what it described as widespread and willful infringement of Viacom's movies, TV shows and other content on YouTube.

Google, which had bought YouTube in October 2006 for $1.65 billion, defended itself by arguing that YouTube complies with the requirements in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to remove infringing material upon owners' requests.

Viacom's Response

Viacom, unsurprisingly, wasn't pleased with the ruling, calling it "fundamentally flawed" and at odds with the DMCA, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Viacom intends to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

"After years of delay, this decision gives us the opportunity to have the Appellate Court address these critical issues on an accelerated basis. We look forward to the next stage of the process," reads Viacom's statement.

The case has been closely followed as a litmus test of U.S. copyright law in the Internet age, and of U.S. courts' interpretation of the DMCA.

There's a consensus that the way the case is eventually settled, whether at the appellate level or in the Supreme Court, will be key to how digital content is published and shared on the Internet.

Siding with Viacom are media and entertainment companies that feel that their expensively produced content -- articles, books, television shows, movies -is being pirated by and profited from by sites like YouTube.

On the other side are those sympathetic to YouTube, who say that content owners need to adapt to today's reality of widespread digital sharing and copying, find ways to exploit and benefit from this, and make use of the DMCA's provisions to exercise their rights.

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