Over the last decade, the Internet has grown into an extraordinary platform for free speech and creative expression. Never before have so many citizens been able to reach an audience across so many mediums at such low cost. All of this activity depends upon a thriving marketplace of innovative online service providers—including both nonprofits like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive and commercial ventures like Veoh, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Blogger, and Flickr—providing inexpensive (or free) public platforms for expression. Because changes to the legal climate for these service providers can have profound consequences for free expression online, proper interpretation of copyright laws as applied to online service providers is a matter of crucial public interest.
Appellants here (collectively “UMG”) assert that “this case poses the question of whether different rules apply in the internet realm.” Appellant’s Brief at 4, UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Veoh Networks, Inc., No. 09-56777 (9th Cir. June 17, 2010) [hereinafter “UMG Br.”]. The answer, simply put, is yes. Congress deliberately created “different rules” for online service providers in Title II of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), codified in § 512 of the Copyright Act. In order to stimulate the growth of the Internet and electronic commerce, Congress created a set of statutory “safe harbors” that helped service providers predict and manage their legal exposure to copyright infringement liability. This effort proved to be a huge success, encouraging not only the growth of the Internet generally, but the growth of innovative platforms for free expression in particular.