On June 16, 2016 Vimeo LLC heard the sweet sounds of victory as it won its appeal in a music copyright infringement case (Capitol Records LLC v. Vimeo LLC ) filed in 2009, that centered on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Vimeo, a video-sharing website, was found not liable for copyright infringement for unwittingly accommodating pre-1972 sound recordings within videos that were uploaded to its website by its users.
On September 18th, 2013, Judge Ronnie Abrams of the Southern District of New York ruled that while Vimeo was covered by the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, these did not apply to sound recordings made before February 15, 1972, which are protected under state law rather than the federal copyright statute. She also stated: “a triable issue exists as to whether the ten employee-uploaded videos were ‘stored at the direction of a user’ and as to whether Vimeo had knowledge or awareness of infringing content in the fifty-five of the 199 Videos-in-Suit with which Vimeo employees interacted.”
The three judges of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in NY reversed the District Court ruling. Judge Leval stated that: “Service providers would be compelled either to incur heavy costs of monitoring every posting to be sure it did not contain infringing pre-1972 recordings, or incurring potentially crushing liabilities under state copyright laws.” The judges also made clear that though Vimeo employees had viewed videos with copyrighted music, it was not enough to verify that the company ignored the red flag warning signs of infringement.
The DMCA “safe harbor” provisions provide some protection to service providers who meet certain conditions from financial liability for the infringing activities of their users and other third parties on the internet.