UPDATED: A group of YouTube creators filed an amicus brief in the ongoing legal battle between Google and Viacom last week, voicing their support for the site’s value as it currently operates and arguing that to make YouTube responsible for the content posted on the site could destroy what has been built there.
The brief, which follows similar filings from Hollywood studios and Silicon Valley allies, can be read in PDF form courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, includes subheadings like “YouTube Helps Us Change The World” and “These Lawsuits Are About Us.”
Those participating represent just a few of the people who have made use of YouTube as a way to connect with the world on a new level, the complete list being, in alphabetical order: David All, Adam Bahner, Michael Bassik, Dane Boedigheimer, Michael Buckley, Chris Cunningham, Iman Crosson, Arin Crumley, Mitchell Davis, Phillip de Vellis, Ronald Erikson II, Benny Fine, Rafi Fine, Jason Fisher, Kassem G, Christine Gambito, Hank Green, John Green, Ian Hecox, William Louis Hyde, Improv Everywhere, Kev Jumba, Salman Kahn, Alan Lastufka, Brian Lustig, Kevin Nalty, Marina Orlova, Anthony Padilla, Byron Pascoe, Mehdi Saharkhiz, Alli Speed, Paul Telner, Charles Trippy, Cory Williams, Dan Zappin, and Barnett Zitron.
It’s a wide range of talent, from vloggers to journalists to filmmakers to activists, and they make a compelling point that should Viacom win this lawsuit, it would damage the value YouTube has brought to their lives and others. From the brief:
We want to retain the features of YouTube that have made it so important to us. Plaintiffs think that the Internet should operate like television. They want YouTube to be liable for anything and everything that someone uploads. We believe that vision is not what Congress had in mind when it enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). The point of this act was to lead us into the new millennium, not to tether us to the last one.
The group of YouTube creators who have banded together for this brief have called themselves “The Sideshow Coalition,” which they say directly addresses a comment made by Viacom that “authorized uses are a sideshow.” (It’s worth noting that I tried to track down the “sideshow” comment today in context and failed — web searches pulled up nothing, and the brief quoted, Viacom Opposition Brief 16, does not appear to be available on Viacom’s legal filings archive or elsewhere. I’ve reached out to the attorney representing the Sideshow Coalition, but he has not yet responded to requests for comment.)
UPDATE: Attorney Eric J. Grannis forwarded me the brief in question, known as “Viacom’s Memorandum of Law In Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment” (which is on the Viacom site as a PDF). The quote comes from page 16 of the brief, in context reading as follows:
Grokster also forecloses Defendants’ argument that they are shielded from liability because many of the videos on the site are noninfringing, such as presidential debates or authorized premium content. See Defs. Opening Mem. 89-91. These authorized uses are a side show. Viacom takes no issue with YouTube when it displays videos with proper authorization. But the presence of noninfringing material is no defense to copyright liability for the array of infringing videos on the site.
But even without context, there is something dismissive to the term “sideshow” that indicates a fundamental misunderstanding by Viacom about the changing face of media — possibly a deadly one. Because we’re looking at a generation of young people right now who see a series like the independently created Annoying Orange (whose creator, Dane Boedigheimer, is one of those participating in this coalition) as no different from the mainstream content they might watch on the Viacom-owned Nickelodeon. To ignore the importance of that now means ignoring what that audience will be expecting as adults, having grown up without gatekeepers.
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