Veoh Wins Ruling In Net-Video Copyright Suit

A federal judge Wednesday threw out a copyright-infringement case filed by a producer of gay porn against Internet video site Veoh Networks, ruling that Veoh is protected under a law limiting liability for Web operators that make good-faith efforts to prevent distribution of pirated material.

The decision could have a bearing in Viacom's high-profile case against Google and YouTube, in which Viacom is asking for at least $1 billion in damages as a result of the Internet companies allowing thousands of video clips from its properties to be accessible on YouTube.

IO Group, a San Francisco-based producer of "all-male erotica" doing business as Titan Media, sued Veoh in 2006, alleging that the site should have prevented users of the video-sharing site from illegally uploading clips from 10 of its adult films ranging from a few seconds to more than 20 minutes.

Veoh defended itself by citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which limits the liability for Internet services from copyright claims if they follow a "takedown" procedure responding to complaints from content-rights holders.

In his ruling, Judge Howard Lloyd of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found that Veoh was protected under the DMCA's safe-harbor provisions.

"The record presented demonstrates that, far from encouraging copyright infringement, Veoh has a strong DMCA policy, takes active steps to limit incidents of infringement on its Web site and works diligently to keep unauthorized works off its Web site," Lloyd said. "In sum, Veoh has met its burden in establishing its entitlement to safe harbor for the alleged infringements here."

Google and YouTube also have based their legal defense in the Viacom case on the DMCA.

YouTube chief counsel Zahavah Levine, in a statement about the Veoh case, said: "It is great to see the court confirm that the DMCA protects services like YouTube that follow the law and respect copyrights."

However, Lloyd said his decision in the Veoh case "is confined to the particular combination of facts in this case and is not intended to push the bounds of the safe harbor so wide that less-than-scrupulous service providers may claim its protection."

In its suit against Veoh, IO had argued that the Internet video site should be required to screen videos before they're uploaded to ensure they're not pirated. But Lloyd said it was unreasonable to assume that a comprehensive review of every file would be feasible.

Lloyd noted that IO filed the lawsuit instead of first providing Veoh with notification of infringement, as specified by the DMCA. Moreover, he said, the videos in question from IO did not include copyright notices on them. In addition, by the time IO filed its suit, Veoh had decided to remove all adult content on its site, including any content allegedly infringing IO's copyrights, Lloyd wrote.

Veoh has raised $69.5 million in funding from investors including Time Warner Inc., Shelter Capital, Spark Capital, Goldman Sachs, Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company, and former Viacom executives Tom Freston and Jonathan Dolgen.