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Friday, March 30, 2007

Viacom states its case

Here's a compelling piece from last Saturday's Washington Post, by Michael Frick, who is Viacom's lead lawyer. He outlines the basis for the company's lawsuit against Google/YouTube, discussing Viacom's interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Frick writes:

    YouTube has described itself as the place to go for video. It is far more than the kind of passive Web host or e-mail service the DMCA protects -- it is an entertainment destination. The public at large is not attracted to YouTube's storage facility or technical functionality -- people are attracted to the entertainment value of what's on the site.

    And YouTube reaps financial benefits from that attraction through selling the traffic to advertisers. While an e-mail provider is paid to facilitate and manage the exchange of e-mail traffic, and competes in that fashion, YouTube lures consumers and competes by having great content -- a resoundingly substantial part of which it did not create or pay for.

And Google's response appeared in the Post five days later, as a letter to the editor. Google lawyer Michael Kwun writes:

    Viacom is attempting to rewrite established copyright law through a baseless lawsuit. In February, after negotiations broke down, Viacom requested that YouTube take down more than 100,000 videos. We did so immediately, working through a weekend. Viacom later withdrew some of those requests, apparently realizing that those videos were not infringing, after all. Though Viacom seems unable to determine what constitutes infringing content, its lawyers believe that we should have the responsibility and ability to do it for them. Fortunately, the law is clear, and on our side.

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