For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Fred von Lohmann
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Viacom's Legal Attack on YouTube Threatens Online Speech and Innovation

EFF and Other Nonprofit Groups Ask Court to Reject Viacom's Arguments

NEW YORK - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other nonprofit groups
asked a federal judge Monday to reject expansive copyright claims made
in lawsuits pending against YouTube. The amicus brief argues that the
plaintiffs in those lawsuits are pushing for legal rulings that would
undermine federal law and throttle free speech and innovation on the

Viacom and a variety of class action plaintiffs are suing YouTube,
claiming that the online video service is liable for copyright
infringements committed by its users. YouTube has responded by arguing
that its activities are shielded by the "safe harbor" provisions of the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which give legal protections
to online service providers that host content on behalf of users.

Despite the DMCA, the plaintiffs have claimed that YouTube should be
held responsible for infringements that occurred before May 2008, when
the site voluntarily implemented content filtering technologies. In
effect, the plaintiffs have urged the court to make content filtering
mandatory for all online service providers that host content on behalf
of users. In the amicus brief filed Monday, EFF -- joined by the
American Library Association, Association of College and Research
Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, Center For Democracy and
Technology, Computer and Communications Industry Association, Home
Recording Rights Coalition, Internet Archive, Netcoalition, and Public
Knowledge -- argues that Viacom's theory would rewrite federal law and
thwart Congress' goal of reducing the legal uncertainties facing
companies trying to innovate on the Internet.

"This case is not just about YouTube," said EFF Senior Staff
Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "Nearly everyonline service that fosters
free expression and commerce online -- like the Internet Archive,
Blogger, Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Flickr, and Scribd -- depends on the
very same DMCA safe harbors that YouTube is relying on here. Viacom is
trying to undo the law that Congress designed to provide a modicum of
legal certainty for those who build these innovative online services."


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The cases against YouTube are pending in federal court in the
Southern District of New York. Additional briefs will be filed by the
parties on April 30 and June 4. A hearing and decision will follow.

For the full amicus brief:

For more on this case:


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EFF is the leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world. EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations.

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