YouTube has landed Google in a copyright confrontation with media giant Viacom that may cost it more than the $1.65bn it paid for the site in the first place.
That the case is important, though, is not in doubt. Corynne McSherry, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which fights for free speech on the web, says there will be a wide ripple effect across Web 2.0 companies – everything from local discussion forums up to the mighty Facebook, the social networking site whose users are increasingly swapping video.
"This goes to the basic question of what are the limits of the DMCA's safe harbour provisions," says Ms McSherry. "This case has brought it right to a head. Viacom has stepped up to the plate to push this issue, and Google has pushed right back. Viacom wants to say that YouTube is not within those provisions because it knows there is all this infringement going on and is doing nothing about it.