Thursday, March 13, 2008

Viacom Can't Get Punitive Damages in YouTube/Google Suit

Viacom's suit against YouTube and Google slowly works its way through the legal system. In a decision rendered last week, but only generally reported yesterday, the Federal District Court in New York hearing the case denied Viacom's motion to amend its complaint to seek punitive damages against the defendants.

The Court's reasoning: the Copyright law doesn't provide for punitive damages. Thus, the decision says nothing about the strength of Viacom's case, or the thorny issue of whether the DMCA safe harbor - the notice and takedown procedures that govern one-off infringements on websites - applies in the case of the massive infringement alleged in this suit.

Punitive damages are damages intended to punish particularly conduct by defendants that's particularly egregious, as Viacom alleges is the case here. If available, they would come in addition to actual damages (the plaintiff's actual losses) or statutory damages, which are an alternative to actual damages where it's difficult to show actual damages (or where none have occurred).

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