An End Run on Copyright Law

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

In a March 24 op-ed, Viacom's general counsel, Michael Fricklas, defended his company's lawsuit against YouTube and Google. Resisting the urge to litigate this case in public, we still thought it useful to reply briefly.

Viacom's lawsuit is an attack on the way people communicate on the Web and on the platforms that allow people to make the Internet their own.

In the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Congress struck a careful balance between the rights of the copyright holder and the need to protect the Internet as an innovative communication frontier, not as another venue for litigation.

Content-hosting sites such as YouTube, Craigslist and MySpace that want to take advantage of the DMCA's safe harbors must promptly remove infringing content if the copyright owner so requests, giving owners a quick remedy that doesn't require going to court. Copyright owners, in return, have the responsibility to identify infringing material they want removed. Viacom's lawyers helped craft this law but apparently don't like it, after all. They want to shirk the responsibility Congress gave them.

Placing that burden on hosting platforms would turn the DMCA on its head.

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.

MICHAEL KWUN

Google, Managing Counsel, Litigation

Mountain View, Calif.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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