Vimeo Gets Major Support In Copyright Fight

Vimeo is in the middle of a major fight. They just got some major support.

Vimeo is currently in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals against record companies headed by Capitol Records, asking the court to reverse a ruling that Vimeo LLC could be liable for copyright violations for user content, saying the ruling could burden online service providers with massive liability and chill artistic expression, according to Law360. At issue is a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was ruled on by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act held a provision releasing sites like Vimeo from such liability, known as a “Safe Harbor” clause, in which Vimeo is not held accountable if a Vimeo user does in any way use copyrighted material.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with Public Knowledge, New Media Rights, the Organization for Transformative Works, and the Center for Democracy and Technology, filed an amicus brief (legal documents filed in appellate court cases by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter to introduce new, possibly relevant information) asking the Second Court to reverse Abrams’ previous decisions.

The battle between Vimeo and the record labels dates to 2009, when Capitol Records sued Vimeo in federal court in Manhattan for hosting “lip dubs” — or videos of people lip-synching.

Abrams ruled that a jury could hold Vimeo liable for infringement through 18 videos on its site because they incorporated certain well-known songs, and because Vimeo staff might have watched at least part of each video — amounting to “red flags.” The judge had also ruled that the DMCA doesn’t cover songs released before February 15, 1972 — recordings that are subject to state copyrights, not federal ones — and thus Vimeo could be held liable for 20 allegedly infringing videos on its site.

According to Mediapost, though, Vimeo is getting some very public support from some powerful friends. On Wednesday, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft filed a friend-of-the-court brief backing Vimeo’s argument. “Employees reviewing content cannot determine infringement based only on the popularity or length of content,” they argue. “The DMCA recognizes this, and thus its application does not turn on assumptions about whether copyrighted works are ‘well known.'” Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest make a similar point in a separate friend-of-the-court brief. Vimeo’s backers are asking for not only the recognition of the “Safe Harbor” clause, but also that the DMCA recognize music created before 1972.

There is no timetable as to when a decision will be handed down.