Viacom (the media conglomerate that owns MTV and Nickelodeon) revisited its lawsuit against online video sharing platform YouTube on Monday. U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton rejected Viacom’s request in a 24-page statement. Stanton ruled that since Viacom had no proof that YouTube was aware of Viacom’s copyrighted content being shared on its platforms.
Viacom’s legal documents call into question the judge’s understanding of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) which protects digital media platforms from copyright violation litigation provided that they remove the copyrighted material upon finding out about the violations. A judge dismissed the case for the first time in 2010 on DCMA grounds. Viacom has since argued that YouTube has chosen “willful blindness” (in the words of its brief) about regular postings of popular shows such as “The Daily Show.”
The judges’ ruling highlights one of the biggest problems of content sharing on the internet: anonymity. The ease of using pseudonyms has created an environment where finding violators of copyright becomes almost impossible. Even the United Nations is hitting roadblocks in its quest to find the real identities behind the Facebook accounts it suspects belong to the Somali pirates.
But techniques such as metadata collection IP address-tracking have made becoming truly anonymous on the internet a hassle. And as companies such as Google (YouTube’s owner) gather more and more data about users, claiming they have no idea who these users are will be a more and more of a stretch. Viacom should have waited a few more years before launching its appeal.