Vimeo, the video-sharing website owned by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI:US), says federal law protects it against a Vivendi SA (VIV) copyright lawsuit over music that includes recordings by the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams heard arguments today on Vimeo’s motion to throw out the case. She said at the end of the three-hour hearing in Manhattan that she would rule later.
Vivendi labels including Capitol Records sued Vimeo in 2009 claiming that the website “induces and encourages its users to upload” copyrighted videos and songs it wasn’t authorized to display. The songs include the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” and Radiohead’s “High and Dry.” Users post homemade videos in which they lip-synch to the infringed songs, the labels said in the complaint.
Vimeo, based in New York, denied infringing copyrights and said that it’s protected by the safe-harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. The safe-harbor rule applies if a site removes infringing material when informed about it.
“Whenever they sent us a DMCA notice we took down the video expeditiously,” Robert Raskopf, a lawyer for Vimeo with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, told the judge. “This is an ambush. No DMCA ever came. They just filed.”
Vimeo, which has more than 14 million registered users, gets its revenue from subscription fees and advertising.
The labels said that Vimeo can’t be protected by law because it knew that the uploaded videos contained unlicensed copyrighted material and that it benefited financially from them.
“Vimeo knew it wasn’t licensed; they talked about getting licenses but didn’t want to spend the money,” Russell Frackman, a lawyer for the labels with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, said to the judge. “They get paid directly from advertising pages that have our material.”
The labels asked the judge to deny Vimeo’s motion and grant them partial summary judgment. If Abrams rejects the motions, the case may go to trial by jury.
The litigation had been on hold pending a ruling in a similar case, in which Viacom Inc. (VIAB:US) sued Google Inc.’s YouTube for displaying Viacom’s copyrighted television and movie content on the web without authorization. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court ruling in favor of YouTube and sent the case back to district court.
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton then dismissed Viacom’s suit in April, saying YouTube was protected from liability by the Copyright Act’s safe-harbor provision.
The labels in the suit are part of Paris-based Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, the world’s largest recorded music company. Formerly part of EMI Music, they were acquired last year from Citigroup Inc.
Vimeo’s parent, New York-based IAC/InterActiveCorp, also operates websites including Match.com and Ask.com.
IAC rose 1.6 percent to $52.86 at 2:44 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading (IACI:US). Vivendi gained 0.8 percent to 15.2 euros in Paris.
The case is Capitol Records LLC v. Vimeo LLC, 1:09-cv-10101, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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