Appeals Court Rejects YouTube Victory Over Viacom, YouTube Says, “No Big Deal”

Hey, remember when Viacom sued YouTube for copyright infringement of shows like South Park and The Daily Show? And YouTube won a summary judgement nearly two years ago, with a judge basically throwing out the case? Well, it looks like the fight isn’t over.

Today, an appeals court reversed the earlier decision. That doesn’t mean Viacom has won, but it does mean YouTube-owner Google will have to go back to court to fight this battle again.

You can read the full decision over at AllThingsD.

YouTube has argued that it was protected by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, because it took down infringing clips when notified. The appeals court, however, rejected several of the justifications for the summary judgment, arguing, for example, that “a reasonable jury could conclude that YouTube had knowledge or awareness [of infringement] at least with respect to a handful of specific clips.” The decision also cites other areas that need further fact-finding or consideration, like whether YouTube could be considered “willfully blind” to infringement, and whether videos syndicated to third-party sites are protected under safe harbor provisions.

The lawsuit was watched closely not just for its implications for YouTube, but also for how the DMCA applies to the Internet as a whole, with Yahoo, Facebook, and IAC siding with Google. Today, a YouTube spokesperson sent me the following statement:

The Second Circuit has upheld the long-standing interpretation of the DMCA and rejected Viacom’s reading of the law. All that is left of the Viacom lawsuit that began as a wholesale attack on YouTube is a dispute over a tiny percentage of videos long ago removed from YouTube. Nothing in this decision impacts the way YouTube is operating. YouTube will continue to be a vibrant forum for free expression around the world.

And Viacom spokesperson sent me this statement:

We are pleased with the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Court delivered a definitive, common sense message – intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law.