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US judge prunes damages from YouTube copyright suit

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YouTube won a small victory this week in the website's everlasting campaign not to have its pants sued off by copyright owners.

A US federal judge has dismissed some damages brought by a lengthy roster of sports and music copyright holders, led by the UK-based Football Association Premier League.

US District Judge Luis Stanton said in a court order issued July 3 that the plaintiffs cannot request damages for videos posted on YouTube that don't have US copyrights attached to them. Stanton wrote that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 "bars statutory damages for all foreign and domestic works not timely registered."

The judge, however, agreed that the plaintiffs could seek damages for claims over live broadcast footage. Getting live coverage OK'd for statutory damages was obviously a major issue given the case is being helmed by a soccer league.

Stanton's order does not touch on the key issue of the lawsuit, which is whether YouTube is responsible for allowing copyright infringing videos to be posted in the first place. Because of similarities of their complaints, the case has become tied with a looming showstopper: Viacom's $1bn copyright lawsuit against Google, YouTube's parent company. The media conglom argues YouTube is liable for copyright infringement when its users publish clips and episodes from Viacom library of television shows.

Google counters that YouTube is protected by the DMCA so long as it acts swiftly to take down copyright infringing material once it's informed of its existence.

Portions of the Viacom case were combined with class action group, although the company was not named as a plaintiff. Neither trial has been scheduled.

Snag a copy of the ruling here (PDF), if that's your kind of thing. ®

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