Monday, May 07, 2007

Viacom and NBC Want Amicus Briefs in Tur v YouTube

In the District Court in LA, Viacom and NBC have asked for permission to file amicus briefs for Robert Tur, the video journalist suing YouTube over footage from the Rodney King riots. ZDNet thinks it a sign that NBC may be readying its own suit against YouTube, though NBC's ambiguous relationship with YouTube suggests that the network may just wait out the legal storm. After all, there are three suits currently threatening YouTube's existence - Tur, Viacom, and the Premier League - so another suit won't bring about a resolution any faster (unless it pressures YouTube to settle with all the parties, who don't seem to be in a settlement mindset anyway) and it will just force NBC to pay a bunch of high expensive lawyers to bring a copycat suit.

That Viacom and NBC want to file amicus briefs isn't a surprise. Since the Tur suit is the farthest along (we're just waiting for the court's decision on summary judgment) and deals with the central question of whether YouTube complies with the DMCA, the outcome of the case will influence what happens with Viacom and the Premier League.

If YouTube is found to qualify for DMCA safeharbor protection in Tur, it may be difficult for Viacom and the Premier League to argue that YouTube isn't covered. This may be why Viacom didn't even mention the DMCA in its suit, so as not to be repeating Tur's argument if he ends up losing.

Then again, Viacom and the Premier League brought suit in New York and New York is not bound by what the courts in California decide. However, the Southern District would certainly have to address the decision in Tur and give it some weight and conflicting decisions on YouTube's safeharbor status would pave the way to the Supreme Court. Because a win for YouTube against Tur will make things more difficult for Viacom, and NBC probably wants a better deal without the expense of litigating itself, it's a no-brainer for them to do what they can to help Tur win his case.
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