Intellectual Property

Samuelson Clinic Students File Amicus Brief on Behalf of the National Alliance for Media Art and Culture in the Viacom-YouTube Appeal in the Second Circuit

Type: Brief
Year: 2011

The Samuelson Clinic, on behalf of its client the National Alliance for Media Art and Culture, as well as the Alliance for Community Media, filed an amicus curiae brief in the Second Circuit in Viacom Int’l Inc. v. YouTube, Inc. to explain to the court how independent artists, creators, and speakers use Internet platforms such as YouTube to reach worldwide audiences to tell stories—especially the stories of those unrepresented in traditional media. The brief explains the importance to independent media artists of the DMCA’s Section 512 safe harbors, which protect online service providers from certain kinds of liability. Where traditional media platforms act as gatekeepers, screening content and carefully selecting who can say what, online platform services instead give access to all speakers, allowing for the broad dissemination of diverse and previously unrepresented views.

In the case, Viacom, a media conglomerate that owns companies such as Paramount, BET, MTV, and Comedy Central, filed suit against YouTube alleging that YouTube was responsible for copyright-infringing materials uploaded to YouTube by its users. YouTube argued that it was shielded from liability under section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment to YouTube. Viacom appealed, arguing for an interpretation of the DMCA that could potentially open up online platforms, including YouTube but also many others, to liability risk for their users’ activities. Because copyright remedies include harsh penalties such as statutory damages and injunctions, Viacom’s arguments could threaten the accessibility and openness of user-generated content sites, which may begin actively policing their networks in response to the increased liability.

The National Alliance for Media Art and Culture, whose mission is to foster and fortify the culture and business of the independent media arts, consists of 225 member organizations that represent more than 300,000 artists and media professionals and provides support to these organizations through training, research, and advocacy on behalf of the field. The Alliance for Community Media provides critical support services for public, educational, and governmental cable access stations through technical assistance and grassroots organizing. Samuelson Clinic students Aaron Mackey, Eddy Park, and Brianna L. Schofield worked with supervisor Jennifer M. Urban to draft the brief.

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