Google won a landmark victory in the battle over pirated content yesterday after a US judge threw out a $1bn (£670m) lawsuit accusing the company of turning a blind eye to illegal videos on its YouTube service.
The ruling against Viacom, which the firm has vowed to fight, will have far reaching implications for the industry. Viacom claimed “tens of thousands of videos on YouTube, resulting in hundreds of millions of views,” had been posted based on its copyrighted works.
It said Google ignored the infringements but US district judge Louis Stanton decided it would be unfair to hold the internet giant liable for simply having a “general awareness” that videos might be posted illegally.
Instead he said sites like YouTube should not be held accountable for monitoring content uploaded by third-party users, so long as it complied after a complaint was lodged.
Viacom says it plans to take the case to the US second circuit court of appeals, claiming Stanton’s ruling was “fundamentally flawed”.
The lawsuit went to the heart of one of the biggest issues to hit media firms in the last decade: how to win internet viewers without ceding control of content.
The case was billed as a test of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal law making it a crime to produce technology to circumvent anti-piracy measures, and limiting liability of online service providers for copyright infringement by users.
Google general counsel Kent Walker said: “This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other.”