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Small victory for Google in YouTube class action

Youtube News on the YouTube litigation front has been about as slow as watching a streamed video on a dial-up modem, but we've finally got some action in the high-stakes class action lawsuit against the company.

U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton has ruled that owners of foreign videos not registered with the U.S. Copyright office can't sue for damages. The judge also ruled that the plaintiffs can't seek punitive damages.

Call it a small victory for Google, owner of the perennially money-losing yet immensely popular YouTube.

The plaintiffs put together an impressive roster of class members, including the British soccer league, the French tennis league, publishers from around the globe and many other entities. Today's ruling may trim that list, although the judge left open the possibility that some plaintiffs could claim infringement on live broadcast footage of sports events.

Google will be happy to escape the possibility of paying punitive damages, although as we've seen in recent cases, statutory damages on copyright infringement can still carry a shockingly large price tag.

This decision shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. The same judge last year ruled in a separate lawsuit that Viacom couldn't seek punitive damages in its own massive case against YouTube.

The core issue in this case still remains to be tested—whether YouTube has safe-harbor from copyright infringement liability if it dutifully responds to a copyright owner's takedown requests.