Viacom/YouTube aftermath: Will video sites stop filtering content?Thu Jun 24, 2010 @ 06:20PM PST
By Eriq Gardner
Judge Louis Stanton noted in his ruling that service providers must deal with unauthorized copyrighted material if they have actual knowledge of its existence. If they don't have actual knowledge, the burden shifts to copyright holders to identify the infringement and inform the service provider. Judge Stanton dismissed the case because he found that Google did act expeditiously when told by Viacom of copyrighted works on the site.
But if Google only has to act when it receives a takedown notice, does that mean it can sit back in blissful ignorance and put the onus all on copyright holders? YouTube has often touted its content-filtering technology that helps identify infringing works on the network. Given Stanton's ruling, perhaps filtering technology isn't required for service providers to claim safe harbor from liability.
Hollywood seems to be reading that message from the decision.
"At a time where there is more talk about service providers becoming proactive in the course of their normal routines, this opinion comes along and says you can be willfully blind," says Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, who agrees that the decision potentially opens the door to ISPs dropping their filtering technology.
At this stage, YouTube probably won't roll back its filtering system. But what about all those web start-ups that have to decide whether to invest in expensive copyright-policing technology? What kind of road map towards escaping liability are they now getting?
If the onus shifts to copyright holders to make takedown demands, we can be sure they'll pursue them with vigor. And if ISPs don't want to get in trouble with the law, we can be equally certain they'll hardly put up much of a fight.
In other words, service providers will be passive-aggressive when it comes to copyright enforcement. Is that really what people want?