NBC lines up against YouTube in copyright case

On the same day that an English soccer league files suit against YouTube, NBC Universal joins Viacom in filing on behalf of journalist suing YouTube for copyright infringement.

NBC Universal and Viacom have come out against YouTube in a legal case that could help to determine whether the video-sharing site is culpable for copyright violations committed by users.

On Friday, NBC Universal and Viacom filed a request with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles asking that they be allowed to file a friends-of-the court brief in support of journalist Robert Tur, according to a copy of the request obtained by CNET News.com.

Tur, a Los Angeles-area news reporter, accused YouTube of copyright infringement in a lawsuit last summer. Tur said in his suit that footage he shot of the 1992 Los Angeles riots appeared repeatedly on the video-sharing site.

Google, which acquired YouTube last October for $1.65 billion, has filed a summary judgment asking that Tur's suit be dismissed, according to court documents. NBC and Viacom want the opportunity to argue against dismissing the case.

"Any ruling on YouTube's motion will have far-reaching ramifications for the owners of video content," NBC and Viacom said in their filing. "And especially for content owners such as Viacom and NBCU, whose works have been copied, displayed, and performed and disseminated by YouTube and others without their authorization."

A YouTube representative could not be reached early Sunday morning.

Tur's case is important because it could help to establish whether YouTube is protected under the Safe Harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The provision protects a Web site from liability for users' actions, as long as the site's operator fulfills specific requirements such as removing infringing material once notified by rights holders.

Should Tur lose, it could set a potentially harmful legal precedent to Viacom and other media companies that believe YouTube poses a threat to their video assets.

In March, Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google alleging that YouTube was responsible for "tens of thousands" of copyright violations. The most recent complaint against YouTube came Friday, when England's most prestigious soccer league and an independent music publisher filed a class action suit against YouTube.

The Football Association Premier League and the music publisher, Bourne, allege in their suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, that YouTube is participating in widespread copyright infringement. The complaint doesn't specify damages and seeks class action status.

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