The 2005 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Grokster v. MGM case is partly responsible for Viacom\u2019s dispute with Google ending up in court, an expert on copyright law said in a Sunday opinion piece in The New York Times.Viacom last week sued Google for US$1 billion in damages from the unauthorized posting of Viacom videos on Google\u2019s free YouTube video-sharing website. In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Viacom charged YouTube with profiting from "massive intentional" violations of Viacom\u2019s copyrighted material."YouTube is a significant, for-profit organization that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others\u2019 creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google," Viacom said.Prior to the Supreme Court\u2019s 2005 Grokster ruling, which found Grokster and StreamCast Networks liable for copyright infringements committed by users of their peer-to-peer file-sharing software, the court held that the U.S. Congress was responsible for defining copyright policy, wrote Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig in the opinion piece.Lessig has been a vocal critic of copyright laws and led the creation of the Creative Commons licensing program."Drawing upon common law-like power, the court expanded the Copyright Act in the Grokster case to cover a form of liability it had never before recognized in the context of copyright\u2014the wrong of providing technology that induces copyright infringement," Lessig wrote, noting that the decision came even as Congress was debating whether to include such a provision in the law."The Grokster case thus sent a clear message to lawyers everywhere: You get two bites at the copyright policy-making apple, one in Congress and one in the courts," Lessig wrote.For Viacom\u2019s suit against Google to be successful, the company must persuade the court that YouTube is responsible for monitoring the content it offers to ensure it does not violate copyright. However, the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act\u2019s safe harbor provision states that a service provider does not need to monitor content to determine whether copyrights are being violated, Lessig wrote."Congress, of course, is perfectly capable of changing or removing the safe harbor provision to meet Viacom\u2019s liking. But Viacom recognizes there\u2019s no political support for the change it wants. It thus turns to a policy maker that doesn\u2019t need political support\u2014the Supreme Court," Lessig wrote.-Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service (Singapore Bureau)Related Links:\n\nPatent Reform Tops List of Tech Concerns\n\nViacom Slaps Google with $1B YouTube LawsuitCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.