Monday, October 29, 2007

Tur Gets Dismissed in Suit Against YouTube

While everyone knows about Viacom's billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube and it's encore, the class action initiated by the Premier League, it should be remembered that LA cameraman Robert Tur's lawsuit against the site was filed first and has been chugging along and is likely to be decided first. Well, at least until last week when Tur got his lawsuit voluntarily dismissed so he can join the class action.

Before the dismissal, there was the likelihood that Tur's case would be resolved before the Viacom and the Premier League suits, meaning that whatever the Tur court decided would have at least some relevance on the others. Now, with Tur's case out of court, it appears that the Viacom case is the front runner to finally answer the question of whether YouTube falls under the DMCA's safe harbors.

Why did Tur drop his case? The simple answer would be that, by joining the class action he no longer needs to financially support his case by himself (Google reportedly had already expended around $370,000 in legal fees in the case). The more intriguing answer, however, is that Viacom may have played a role in convincing Tur to step aside:
But despite the judge's decision, the question still remains about whether Tur ceded the case to Google's two major Internet video rivals. In an interview Tuesday, Tur's attorney, Francis Pizzulli, said he indeed did get help from others, but refused to identify who helped him, and the extent of their role.

"We have received help from various quarters, but I'm the one ultimately responsible," Pizzulli said. "We won. We don't have to pay a red cent over to Google."

The judge's Friday order lets Tur join another pending class-action lawsuit against YouTube, this one led by the U.K.'s Football Association Premier League. Pizzulli said he's in the process now of transferring the Tur case over.

A YouTube spokesman said the company is going to review the judge's order and then "consider our options."

Remember that Viacom and NBC sought to file amicus briefs in the case this past May. Ultimately NBC was allowed to file, but Viacom's request was rejected by virtue of its case pending in New York. According to allegations made by Google lawyers:

"This is a case that has been commandeered by others for their own purposes, leading to remarkable machinations over an extended period creating hundreds of thousands of dollars in added expense for YouTube," YouTube's lawyers had recently told a judge.

Perhaps the most sensational of the allegations Google raised in its arguments was how some of Tur's own legal briefs in the case appear to have been ghostwritten by attorneys for Viacom and NBC.

"The style and rhetoric" of some of Tur's documents were "unmistakably similar" to paperwork Viacom and NBC proposed to file later in the case, Google attorneys argued at one point.

So it's official. Viacom will get the chance to bring down YouTube, if it can and if the two sides don't settle. Based on recent comments in the media, a settlement doesn't seem likely even despite the new YouTube filter.
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