The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision today in Viacom’s blockbuster lawsuit against YouTube – a case CDT cited in 2010 as one of the leading “things to watch” that will shape the Internet’s future. Fortunately, the news is mostly good. While the decision is not a complete win for YouTube and indeed sends the matter back to the District Court for further factual determinations, the principal legal rulings appear to represent a “win” for the Internet.
Viacom’s lawsuit represented a full broadside attack on the crucial “safe harbor” that protects companies that host user-generated content from being held liable whenever users upload infringing material. Without this protection, set forth in Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), liability risks would cripple the operation of user-generated content and social networking sites. It would be hard to overstate the negative impact for free expression