The so-called safe harbor clauses associated with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have come under increased scrutiny in recent years as new forms of content creation and distribution have strained the 20th century legislation. A recent ruling in an ongoing dispute between record label UMG and now-defunct online video platform Veoh may have confirmed and set several significant precedents on how copyright liability will be interpreted.
For online content providers and aggregators such as Veoh to meet DMCA safe harbor guidelines, they must promptly respond to takedown requests concerning potentially infringing material, confirm that they had no "actual knowledge" of infringing behavior and demonstrate that they received no financial benefit from infringing content over which they hold the "right and ability to control."
According to TechCrunch, the Veoh decision now makes it clear that the "actual knowledge" and "red flag" language associated with infringement awareness on the part of the platform provider will be interpreted rather narrowly. While UMG pointed to news articles from 2007 which broadly implied Veoh's infringement policing protocols were somewhat lax, the court was satisfied that all concrete takedown requests were responded to appropriately and no internal emails or documents suggested an awareness of any questionable content which was not being addressed.
Online service providers cannot simply plead ignorance and resist action until they receive formal compliance notes, however, according to Forbes. In similar but separate litigation involving YouTube, for example, there is still some doubt as to whether the video service used its full weight in rooting out and disabling access to infringing material.