Capitol Records v. Vimeo, No. 1:09-cv-10101-RA (S.D.N.Y. Opinion & Order filed 09/18/13) [Doc. 119].
Plaintiffs are record labels and publishers that brought a copyright infringement action against Vimeo, an online video sharing platform. Vimeo moved for summary judgment, asserting entitlement to “safe harbor” protection pursuant to the DMCA. Plaintiffs cross-moved for partial summary judgment seeking a ruling that Vimeo is ineligible for such protection. The question before the Court was whether Vimeo is entitled to safe harbor protection pursuant to the DMCA. The Court held that triable issues of fact remained as to whether Vimeo is entitled to safe harbor protection as to fifty-five of the videos that Vimeo employees interacted with or uploaded. However, the Court held that Vimeo was entitled to summary judgment as to the remaining 144 videos at issue in the suit.
First, the Court considered threshold criteria whether Vimeo is eligible for safe-harbor protection. The Court found that Vimeo is a "service provider", it had adopted and reasonably implemented a "repeat infringer policy", and it did not interfere with standard technical measures. Thus, Vimeo was eligible for safe-harbor protection.
Having satisfied the threshold criteria, the Court considered whether Vimeo met the requirements of § 512(c), which apply to any claims “for infringement of copyright by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider.” As to 10 of the videos, the Court found a triable issue with respect to whether certain employees were storing their content as “users” within the meaning of § 512(c) or as employees acting within the scope
of their employment. Also, the Court found triable issues exist as to whether Vimeo acquired actual or red flag knowledge of the infringing content in 55 videos with which Vimeo employees interacted (e.g., commented on the videos, "liked" the videos, placed on channels etc.) By contrast, there was no evidence that Vimeo acquired actual or red flag knowledge as to 144 videos with which Vimeo employees indisputably did not interact, and Vimeo was thus entitled to summary judgment as to these videos.
Plaintiffs' "willful blindness" arguments failed. The Court noted that service providers are under no affirmative duty to seek out infringement, even when they possess technological measures permitting them to do so.
Also, the Court concluded that Vimeo lacked the right and ability to control infringing activity. The Court considered the totality of Vimeo’s monitoring program, and rejected Plaintiffs’ arguments and found no triable issue as to the exertion of substantial influence on user activity. The Court also rejected Plaintiffs' argument that Vimeo exerted substantial influence on its users’ activities through inducement.
The Court also concluded that Vimeo acted expeditiously when it removed videos pursuant to take-down notices.
Lastly, the Court concluded that DMCA protection did not apply to pre-1972 sound recordings. The Court recognized other authority in the SDNY that found otherwise, but found the recent decision by the New York First Dep't, UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Escape Media Grp., Inc., 964 N.Y.S.2d 106 (1st Dep’t 2013), and the December 2011 Copyright Office Report concluding that the DMCA safe harbors do not apply to pre-1972 records. Accordingly, even those 144 videos that were otherwise protected by the DMCA are not protected if they are pre-72 recordings.