A US District Court Judge threw out a case filed in 2006 against the online video site Veoh which has far-reaching implications for online video. At issue was whether or not Veoh violated copyrights by automatically converting videos to Flash, even though the company removed content whenever it received takedown notices as prescribed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The suit was filed by adult entertainment company IO Group after some of their content was uploaded to Veoh’s video service. Veoh’s site included a warning against uploading copyrighted video and they quickly took down any video that was in violation upon receiving a notice from the content owner. These are the provisions laid out in the DMCA that allow online video sites to maintain safe harbor from liability for user-uploaded video.
IO Group’s assertion was that because the site converted or transcoded the video format to Flash, Veoh had direct control of the content and therefore was willingly violating their copyright. This process is called transcoding and is used by virtually every online video site including YouTube.
While transcoding does change the format of a video from that which was uploaded by a user, it’s an automated process which can not decipher whether someone else owns the content. Video sites use digital fingerprinting technology to help determine whether videos are copyrighted, but they can easily be confused if the video is edited.
This was a major case for online video that had many people in the industry biting their nails. If the judge had ruled against Veoh, the floodgates would have opened for similar suits against virtually every video upload site on the Internet. Luckily for Veoh, the tech-savvy judge issued a summary judgement and threw out the case.
This suit is also likely to help Veoh to arise from obscurity in an industry that is so heavily dominated by Google’s YouTube. Their site has actually gone down this morning, likely bombarded with new user registrations as many online video fans ask, “It’s like YouTube, but with adult content?”