Google confident digital liability law protects it

NEW YORK Wed Mar 14, 2007 10:53am EDT

A file photo of a laptop screen showing the homepage of Google in Beijing June 8, 2006. Google is confident its popular video-sharing site YouTube and other Web services Google offers have strong legal protections under current copyright law, company attorneys said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A file photo of a laptop screen showing the homepage of Google in Beijing June 8, 2006. Google is confident its popular video-sharing site YouTube and other Web services Google offers have strong legal protections under current copyright law, company attorneys said on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc. is confident its popular video-sharing site YouTube and other Web services Google offers have strong legal protections under current copyright law, company attorneys said on Tuesday.

Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. ended six months of thinly veiled threats of legal action against YouTube earlier on Tuesday with a $1 billion lawsuit that accuses Google and YouTube of "massive intentional copyright infringement."

But Google and YouTube lawyers said their actions are squarely within the protections offered by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 and they were prepared to defend the company aggressively.

The DMCA has served as the legal standard defining U.S. copyright law in the digital age. It limits liability for firms that act quickly to block access to pirated materials once they are notified by copyright holders of specific infringement.

"Here there is a law which is specifically designed to give Web hosts such as us, or... bloggers or people that provide photo-album hosting online ... the 'safe harbor' we need in order to be able to do hosting online," said Alexander Macgillivray, Google's associate general counsel for products and intellectual property.

"We will never launch a product or acquire a company unless we are completely satisfied with its legal basis for operating," Macgillivray told Reuters in an interview.

Google's move to acquire YouTube for $1.65 billion in early October was preceded by a series of threats and at least one federal lawsuit filed against YouTube.

YouTube was sued in July 2006 by Los Angeles News Service operator Robert Tur for allowing YouTube users to upload and view his famous footage of trucker Reginald Denny being beaten during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

In September, Doug Morris, chief executive of Universal Music Group, the world's biggest record company, accused YouTube and News Corp.'s MySpace social network site of being "copyright infringers' at a Wall Street conference.

David Drummond, the executive who spearheaded Google's $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube last November, serves as both its head of business development and chief legal officer.

Responding to Viacom's suit, which also seeks an injunction that could lead to a possible shutdown of YouTube, Macgillivray said Google had done its homework.

"This is an area of law where there are a bunch of really clear precedents, so Amazon and eBay have both been found to qualify for the safe harbor and there are a whole bunch more," Macgillivray said.

"We will continue to innovate and continue to host material for people, without being distracted by this suit."

The attorney noted Google previously won dismissal of a lawsuit involving copyright issues filed by Nevada attorney Blake Field. The judge used 'safe harbor" protections, among a series of grounds, in granting summary judgment to Google.

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