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YouTube Wins Another Round Against Viacom

By now, you’ve probably seen the news that U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton has awarded summary judgment to YouTube in Viacom v. YouTube, and you’ve probably read the salient quotes from the decision, as well.

Rather than add to the number of blogs that have talked about what the decision says, and what it means, I’d like to briefly focus on what it does not mean.

First, this decision does not mean that the case is over, or that YouTube has won a decisive victory in the case. A Viacom representative has already said that the company will appeal the decision, and it’s not entirely out of the question that the higher court will again reverse Judge Stanton.

This decision also doesn’t mean that every other user-generated content (“UGC”) site under the sun is now somehow magically immune to liability under the DMCA. Many UCG sites do not operate the way YouTube does (or the way YouTube operates now, at least; it’s easy to forget the conduct they are being sued over is six years old). Among other things, some UGC sites don’t register a DMCA agent with the U.S. Copyright office; some never establish or enforce a policy with respect to repeat infringers; some UGC sites do not respond to valid DMCA take-down requests — and each of these things is required of UGC sites, if they want to claim safe harbor under section 512 of the DMCA.

At this point, if I were a betting man, I’d be inclined to bet that YouTube eventually will come out on top in this case. But that day isn’t today, and it won’t be next week, next month, or even necessarily next year. This case is far from done, and it’s not a given that the higher courts will see things the same way Judge Stanton does.