Veoh triumphs over Universal Music in lawsuit on social media liability, gives lesson in the DMCA safe harbor

"Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon" by Matt Hamm, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 2.0. It is uncertain whether Veoh will be a major player in the future of online video.  There is little doubt, however, that it has had a significant role in defining the boundaries of social media liability.

Veoh's victories against IoGroup and Universal Music have helped provide a model for social media and web 2.0 services in protecting themselves from liability.

Veoh's newest triumph is getting the district court to grant summary judgement that it is "entitled to the section 512(c) safe harbor. "

The judge notes the parties positions, (in typical traditional media versus social media company case fashion)

"they disagree on the extent to which the DMCA obligates internet-based services like Veoh, which rely on content contributed by users, to police their systems to prevent all copyright infringement. "

The case began as a preemptive suit by Veoh due to threats by Universal Music to establish its lack of liability.  Then followed a series of victories for Veoh including establishing that Veoh was eligible for the safe harbor , as well as shielding Veoh's investors .

"Veoh has shown that when it did acquire knowledge of allegedly infringing material - whether from DMCA notices, informal notices, or other means - it expeditiously removed such material, and UMG has failed to rebut that showing."

Essentially, Veoh did more than it needed to take advantage of the safe harbor.

The judge describes typical, and troublesome overzealous filtering of content as follows

Veoh uses a number of technologies to automatically prevent copyrightinfringement on its system. For example, when Veoh disables access to a video thatinfringes a copyright, "hash filtering" software that it introduced in 2006 automatically disables access to any identical video and blocks any subsequently submitted duplicates.  

The judge goes on to describe additional filtering software from Audible Magic which takes an "audio fingerprint" of a video and is used to refuse upload to any video in a predefined database of copyrighted works.

As in IO Group ( a case in which transcoding and even the possibility of making ad money around the videos was found to be protected), the key to Veoh's victory were its scrupulous attention to the DMCA safe harbors. Veoh

i. responded to compliant DMCA takedown notices on a same-day basis,
ii. it notified users of its policies against copyright infringement,
iii. it registered a Copyright Agent with the Copyright Office,
iv. it terminated users who were repeat infringers and
v. blocked new registrations from the same email addresses,
vi. it used hashes to stop the same infringing videos from being uploaded by other users.

Sure, these efforts go beyond the requirements of the DMCA safe harbors.  But the actions made it clear that Veoh was serious about responding to copyright infringement notices.

If your website hosts audio, video, image, or even text content submitted by users, the Veoh cases can be a lesson in protecting your service from liability.  Remember, it takes affirmative action, time and effort, on the part of the website to avail itself of the DMCA safe harbors.  The benefit, however, can be the survival of your social media website.

"Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon " by Matt Hamm , licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 2.0.

UMG v. Veoh summary judgment order
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