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Lawsuit Against YouTube Threatens Global Growth of Political Speech

Legal Attack on Online Video Site Could Throttle Innovation with Fears of Litigation
PRESS RELEASE
April 7, 2011
Legal Attack on Online Video Site Could Throttle Innovation with Fears of Litigation

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of advocacy groups have asked a federal appeals court to reject attempts to thwart federal copyright law and saddle online communities with new litigation fears in the appeal of Viacom v. YouTube.

In an amicus brief filed Thursday, EFF argues that the infringement claims made by Viacom and the other plaintiffs threaten to undermine the "safe harbor" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) -- safe harbors that have fostered free speech and innovation around the globe. Without the clear legal structure of the DMCA process, companies that host user-generated expression could be hit with potentially massive damage awards, which would encourage over-blocking of content or even the shutdown of services altogether.

"If the DMCA safe harbors are undermined in the way Viacom and the other content companies would like, the free flow of information will be seriously threatened," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Abigail Phillips. "Communications platforms like YouTube have enabled political and other speech to flourish online. We've all seen the critical role digital communications have been playing in protests across the Middle East. The safe harbors make posting of user-generated content like this possible."

At issue in this case is copyright infringement on YouTube before the online video service voluntarily implemented content filtering technologies in May of 2008. The district court correctly found that YouTube was shielded by the DMCA safe harbors, and Viacom and others appealed the ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"All the online services you use every day -- Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay -- depend on the DMCA safe harbors in order to allow user-generated content on their sites," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "That's why Congress designed the safe harbors -- to allow innovators to manage legal risk and develop new services without fear of devastating litigation, while offering copyright owners an expedited process for taking down infringing content. Viacom's arguments here misinterpret the law, with potentially disastrous results."

Also joining EFF's brief are the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/viacom_v_youtube/ViacomvGoogleAmicus.pdf

For more on this case:
http://www.eff.org/cases/viacom-v-youtube

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Abigail Phillips
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
abigail@eff.org

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