Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shades of Gray on Viacom v. YouTube opinion: 'Where's the beef?'

Apparently I'm not alone in my belief that the district court's summary judgment ruling in the Viacom v. YouTube case was "too damn short to do justice to the complex, heavily-litigated issues in the case." Blogs San Francisco copyright attorney Naomi Jane Gray at Shades of Gray:
In sharp contrast to the voluminous materials submitted by the parties in support of their cross-motions for summary judgment in the Viacom v. YouTube litigation, the court’s opinion granting judgment in favor of YouTube is surprisingly lean. Indeed, a third of the 30-page opinion is devoted to verbatim quotes of the statute and legislative history. The opinion represents a resounding victory for YouTube and, by extension, the rest of the user-generated content industry (for the time being, anyway – Viacom, not surprisingly, has indicated that it will appeal the decision). But – leaving the merits of the dispute aside for a moment – it also represents a lost opportunity for a thoughtful contribution to the jurisprudence in this developing area of law.
Given the size of the case (the complaint sought $1 billion in damages), the significance of the legal issues, and the need for a well-developed body of jurisprudence to guide the ongoing development of new business models and to create settled expectations among copyright owners and users of content, it would have been nice to see a little closer parsing of the language in the statute and legislative history. Clients, in my experience, are never thrilled to be advised on the tenor of the law – they want to know what the law is, so they can act accordingly.
Go read the whole thing.

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