Earlier this month, rumors surfaced that Google was in talks to acquire YouTube. In my blog of October 7th, I pointed out that Google faced significant copyright problems if it purchased YouTube because of threats by companies complaining that YouTube customers were stealing copyrighted content to make their home videos.
Hours after YouTube announced settlement talks with several music companies, most notably Universal, Google announced on October 9th that they would buy YouTube in an all-stock deal.
On Monday, the other shoe fell. Universal Music Group, which now has a deal with YouTube to permit use of its music videos, filed copyright infringement lawsuits against two other Internet companies for permitting users to download/upload their content.
The lawsuits, filed Monday, are against Sony's Grouper Networks, Inc. and Bolt, Inc. According to the Wall Street Journal, these "mark the first time a major media company has tried to use the courts to narrowly interpret 'safe harbor' protections provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 so it would exclude video-sharing sites. The DMCA provides protection from liability for copyright infringement to Internet companies if they meet certain criteria and follow so-called takedown procedures."
Apparently Universal had held discussions with these two companies similar to the discussions they had with YouTube, but no deal resulted.
It will be very interesting to see how the District Court for California's Central District rules in this case. There has been much speculation as to whether the "safe harbor" rules will cover video-sharing sites. Under those rules, Internet companies must remove any material once they have received a complaint from the copyright holder. Previously, Internet companies have claimed that, by following the takedown rules, they were protected by safe harbor.