March 13, 2007 · Lessig
Ok, so just about 10 years after the content industry got Congress to adopt one of the most sweeping changes in American copyright law (aka, the DMCA), the content industry has decided that it doesn’t like one part of that law — the Safe Harbor Provision that protects sites such as YouTube. But rather than go to Congress to get them to change the law, the content industry, knowing Congress would not change the law, turns to its new best friend — the common law of copyright, as articulated by the Supreme Court. See, e.g., Grokster. Why burden Congress with the hassle of law making when you’ve got a Supreme Court eager to jump in and legislate? At least, that is, when there’s no Constitutional issue at stake. When the Constitution’s at stake, then it is a matter for — you guessed it — Congress. See, e.g., Eldred v. Ashcroft.
Note Count IV in the complaint – “Inducement of Copyright Infringement” – aka, the monster Grokster created.
This case — if it is really intended as a law suit and not a move in a bargaining game — should be decided on the meaning of s512(c). The question will be whether YouTube has the “ability to control” uploads before they are identified as infringing. Viacom complains that YouTube shifts to it the burden of identifying infringing content. Not true. The DMCA does. Until at least Congress amends it, or the Supreme Court adds some new common law of copyright to the statute books.