Tue, Jan 6 2009 6:11 PM aheram

UMG v. Veoh: Web 2.0 Sites are Protected under DMCA Safe Harbors

From the heroic Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Over the holidays, video hosting site Veoh won another victory under the DMCA safe harbors, this time against Universal Music Group (UMG). The ruling should put to rest the argument that transcoding and other activities necessary for making content accessible on the web are not covered by the DMCA's Section 512(c) safe harbor for storing material on behalf of users (i.e., hosting user-generated content). This is good news not just for Veoh, but also for YouTube and every other site that hosts material uploaded by users.

Like many other companies that host content on behalf of users, Veoh has been bedeviled by copyright lawsuits. The copyright owners make the same argument in each of these suits: the hosting service should be liable for every infringing bit uploaded by naughty users and responsible for the full cost of policing for infringement. Fortunately, Congress enacted the DMCA's safe harbor provisions back in 1998 to protect service providers from exactly these risks, offering immunity from copyright damages to those who implement a notice-and-takedown system. In August 2008, Veoh won a big victory against adult video purveyor Io Group, relying on these provisions.

Sites that host user-generated content are protected under the usually draconian Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) from the machinations of the copyfascist RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Liability is limited to the users actually committing the so-called infringement and not the sites that host the content. It is a victory and as mentioned in the article, Google will greatly benefit from this decision in its current suit with Viacom.

To those that are not familiar with Viacom v. Google, Viacom filed a 1 billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube and its corporate parent Google for the actions of its users. Many users that use YouTube are active posters of copyrighted content, remixed or otherwise.  In question is whether or not Google or any other similarly built internet-based application or services can be held liable for the same copyright infringement of its users for hosting the infringing content posted by those users. At stake is perfectly legal, valid, and innovative use of such services. If the case goes in Viacom favor (and it can happen, just look at Grokster), this will discourage technology companies from developing a platform that will allow such open access to user-generated content.

I am extremely put-off by any collusion of Big Corporation with Big Government (hence my use of the word copyfascist and copyfascism). Every lawsuit these copy-monopolists file against innovators is a lawsuit filed against innovation, creativity, and the free market itself. These companies are asking for nothing less than an immoral government intervention on their behalf. A targeted bailout meant to mitigate risk to their failing business models at the expense of innovative start-ups and small businesses that pose a threat to their state-sanctioned monopoly.

It is very clear to me that copy-protectionism is incompatible with the free market.

Cross-posted at RedStateElectic.

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