San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of nonprofit groups have asked a federal appeals court to protect the "safe harbor" rules for online video service providers that encourage free expression and innovation on the Internet.

In an amicus brief filed Friday in UMG v. Veoh, EFF told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that Universal Music Group's (UMG's) effort to hold online video service Veoh responsible for infringing content uploaded by a minority of its users would thwart federal law and Congress's intent to stimulate electronic commerce and free speech.

"By creating a clear path for innovators like Veoh to limit their liability for the copyright violations of their users, the statutory safe harbors helped foster the innovation environment that has made YouTube, Flickr, eBay, Blogger, and myriad other hosting-based services possible," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "UMG is trying to turn back the clock and reinstate a climate of legal uncertainty that would harm new online businesses and the free expression they foster."

The safe harbors are part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and give sites immunity from monetary damages if they observe the DMCA's "notice and takedown" procedures for potentially infringing content and comply with other legal requirements. In a lawsuit first filed in 2007, UMG argued that the safe harbors don't apply to any service that "displays" or "distributes" copyrighted material, rather than simply "storing" it. Last year, a federal district court rejected that argument. UMG appealed.

"The safe harbors have proven to be a huge success in encouraging the growth of innovative platforms for free expression, hosting vibrant amateur creativity," said McSherry. "But under UMG's vision for the Internet, we'd get something a lot more like television, where nothing is seen until it's approved by an army of lawyers. That's why we're asking the appeals court to affirm the lower court's ruling."

Joining EFF in the amicus brief are the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Internet Archive, NetCoalition, and Public Knowledge.

For the full amicus brief:

For more on this case:


Corynne McSherry
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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