YouTube scored a somewhat major legal victory over Viacom when a federal judge ruled that YouTube wasn’t liable for copyrighted material on the site uploaded by users. That’s the DMCA granting YouTube protection from Viacom, people. The case was brought up in 2010 and recently it was decided that YouTube didn’t have prior knowledge that copyrighted material was being uploaded by users nor did they welcome it and/or participate in it.
While YouTube does remove copyrighted material when a request is made or run ads when a work includes a copyrighted work—a song is the best example—the site doesn’t have anything in place in the shape of prescreening. If you post it, it’s up until the copyright police for a company sees it and demand that it be removed. By removing the material it’s usually pulling it from search on YouTube meaning you’re usually the only person who can see what was posted in the first place.
In short, YouTube wasn’t found guilty of any wrong doing and you can bet that Viacom will regroup and take a different approach to this. If at first you don’t succeed: try, try again. Although Viacom didn’t win this time, there is always some opening for a legal victory of some sort even if the law is pretty cut and dry about the outcome.
The main thing Viacom would need to present to get around the DMCA protection YouTube enjoys is evidence that YouTube actively participates in this or actually knows about specific instances of when copyrighted material is being uploaded without the copyright holder’s permission. This just comes off as difficult as the trick shots from the 1990s Jordan vs. Bird McDonald’s commercials. It’s simply so specific that it seems like a stretch to come up with someone who knows of it—especially with the amount of videos on the site.
Of course, tight cases that seemed to be in the bag have been snatched by a number of means such as obscure rulings and statutes. There’s unlikely to be any of that kind of flash here, but Viacom will definitely find something that seems like it has grounds to take this back to court again.