Back in 2007, media giant Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google's YouTube alleging that it knowingly allowed copyrighted content to be uploaded on its site. A lot has happened since then. YouTube launched a video filtering system to catch infringing material before it's even posted on the site, and eventually signed some distribution deals with content providers, while Viacom escalated its allegations claiming Google made a deliberate, calculated business decision to profit from copyright infringement when it agreed to buy YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006.
The legal battle raged on and just a few months ago, in March 2010, it was discovered that Viacom managers had been uploading video to YouTube and covering their tracks after the suit was already filed. Google always maintained its position that YouTube complies with the requirements in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by removing infringing material upon owners' requests, and today, after a lot of back and forth the court has sided with them.
Judge Stanton agreed with Google's argument, noting that when YouTube received a takedown notice for an infringing item, "they swiftly removed it." The ruling commends Google's efforts to automatically filter out infringing videos, but said video sites are not required to, adding that simply acting promptly when studios alert them of pirated clips is enough. This essentially puts the burden on entertainment companies, who will be tasked with hunting down pirated content themselves. Viacom wasn't pleased with the ruling, calling it fundamentally flawed, and has announced plans to appeal.
Even though the fight is certainly not over yet, this is seen as a major win for YouTube. For one thing, more content providers may warm up to the idea of streaming videos on YouTube now that the site has been cleared of its copyright infringement stigma. It's also an eye opener for content owners that they need to adapt to today's reality of widespread digital sharing, finding ways to exploit and benefit from this.