DMCA Protects Online Video-Sharing Service

A federal court in California recently decided that an online video-sharing service was not liable for copyright infringement arising from the activities of site visitors who uploaded infringing content. The online service, Veoh Networks Inc., complied with the take down requirements of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but that didn’t satisfy the plaintiff, UMG Recordings. UMG argued that Veoh wasn’t entitled to the DMCA “safe harbor” because Veoh should have known that its users engaged in copyright infringement by uploading digital content that is frequently pirated online.

The decision means that the burden of seeking out and stopping infringement remains with the copyright holder. UMG tried to shift that burden by essentially asking the court to adopt a “where’s there’s smoke there’s fire” approach. The court wasn’t buying. It was concerned that if it adopted such an approach “the [DMCA] safe harbor would be a dead letter because vast portions of content on the internet are eligible for copyright protection.”

Like it or not, courts are reluctant to burden interactive computer service providers with policing third party content. That’s the theory behind § 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and it’s at the heart of the DMCA.