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How Websites can Avoid Liability for User-provided Content

Two U.S. District Court cases – Io Group, Inc. v. Veoh Networks, Inc. (8/27/2008) and UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Veoh Networks, Inc. (9/11/2009) – offer a recipe by which Internet-based service providers can avoid liability for user-provided content.

Update: UMG v. Veoh was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on December 20, 2011.

The cases are similar. Veoh operates an Internet-based service that allows users to share videos with others free of charge. Io and UMG (Universal Music Group) brought separate suits, each alleging that Veoh engaged in various forms of copyright infringement because it allowed users to upload videos that infringed the plaintiffs’ copyrights.

In each case, Veoh obtained a summary judgment in its favor based on compliance with the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), codified at 17 U.S.C. Section 512 (Limitations on liability relating to material online).

Specifically, Veoh complied with each of the following elements of the Section 512 safe harbor:

  • Upon receiving notice that material was infringing, Veoh expeditiously removed it.
  • Veoh’s right and ability to control user activities was not so great as to defeat the safe harbor.
  • Veoh adopted and reasonably implemented a policy by which accounts of repeat infringers were terminated.

Indeed, Veoh went even further than was required by the DMCA, in that it implemented software that attempted to identify infringing material on its servers by comparing digital “fingerprints” to those of materials already known to be infringing.

For pointers about how to incorporate DMCA safe harbor provisions into online terms of use, see Terms of Use and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

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    […] The ISPs were not entitled to the “safe harbor” protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (see How Websites Can Avoid Liability for User-provided Content). […]