YouTube sued over copyright infringement

Journalist claims video-download site encourages its users to violate copyright law.

A journalist and well-known helicopter pilot in Los Angeles has filed suit against video-sharing site YouTube, claiming that it encouraged users to violate copyright law.

Robert Tur says video he shot of the beating of trucker Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles riots was posted at YouTube without his permission and viewed more than 1,000 times. Tur says in his lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, that YouTube is profiting from his work while hurting his ability to license his video.

"Mr. Tur's lawsuit is without merit," YouTube said in a statement. "YouTube is a service provider that complies with all the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and therefore is entitled to the full protections of the safe harbor provisions of the Act."

Passed in 1998 to protect copyright holders from technology that facilitated piracy, the DMCA also offered protection to Web service providers by limiting their liability in cases where their customers were found guilty of copyright violation.

Those in the video-sharing sector have for months expected someone to challenge YouTube in court. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company lets users post videos to its site without prescreening them, and a staggering amount of copyright video exists on the site. YouTube prohibits the uploading of such material but has also benefited in the past when someone has posted a professionally made clip that catches fire with the public.

Earlier this year, a skit from "Saturday Night Live," called "Lazy Sunday" drew large audiences to YouTube's site and generated lots of media attention before the company pulled the clip at the request of NBC.

Since learning of Tur's suit, YouTube has removed his clip, the company said in its statement. Tur didn't ask that the company remove the clip prior to filing his suit, YouTube said.

Tur is asking the court for $150,000 per violation and an injunction barring any further use of his material.

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