updated 07:05 pm EST, Tue December 20, 2011
Hosting services protected from liability
A federal appellate court today upheld a lower district court ruling that the safe harbors created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) did protect video hosting site Veoh from copyright liability. The case originated in 2007 when the Universal Music Group sued Veoh for allegedly allowing the site's users to upload protected Universal music videos. Ironically, Veoh filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010, in part due to the financial burden of defending itself against the charges.
The UMG had asserted that the DMCA safe harbors protection did not apply to any service that displayed or distributed copyrighted material rather than simply storing it. The Ninth Circuit Court rejected this contention. It found that display and distribution of content define the essence of a web hosting service. If it only stored information, it would be merely "an online backup service."
If the court had accepted Universal's argument, all hosting services wouldn't be protected under the DMCA's safe harbor rules, and any service would have to get approval from every conceivable copyright holder before hosting any content.
The court went on to reject Universal's claim that an Internet service's awareness that its site hosted some infringing videos is sufficient grounds to deprive that service of the safe harbors protection. [via Electronic Frontier Foundation]