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One of cable's largest media conglomorates has opened the litigation against YouTube

Viacom today announced it has filed a lawsuit against Google in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Viacom filed the lawsuit claiming that Google intentionally committed massive copyright infringement of Viacom’s entertainment properties. The lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion in damages, in addition to an injunction that will prohibit Google/YouTube from further copyright infringement.

In its statement, Viacom said that “almost 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom’s programming have been available on YouTube and that these clips had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.” Viacom would have greatly preferred these page views to have come from its own online video sharing website iFilm, so that it would have been able to receive advertising revenue.

Viacom also said Google, which acquired YouTube in 2006, has built a “lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others’ creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent.” Essentially,  fans of content not owned by Google are watching the “creative works” on YouTube while Google benefits from and exploits these users’ devotions to these T.V. shows.

Viacom went on to say that YouTube’s entire business model is “based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content.” Viacom’s statement even says that Google is avoiding taking “proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site.”  YouTube missed the anti-piracy deadline that it promised to deliver by January 2007.

Viacom is also unhappy that it has to police YouTube’s content and says that YouTube has placed “the entire burden – and high cost – of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement.”

Viacom believes that “YouTube and Google are continuing to take the fruit” of its efforts without permission while also “destroying enormous value in the process.” Viacom also added a little sentiment by saying the value “rightfully belongs to the writers, directors and talent who create it and companies like Viacom that have invested to make possible this innovation and creativity.” Despite the added emotion, however, there is no doubt that the lawsuit centers on money.    

After unproductive negotiation Viacom believes that its only choice is to “turn to the courts to prevent Google and YouTube from continuing to steal” its content and to gain compensation for damages.

Prior to 2006, Viacom owned CBS broadcasting networks.  CBS Corporation has also scrutinized YouTube; the company recently declined a content sharing program that was slated for 2007.  Viacom, on the other hand, has chosen to partner with Joost for its online content sharing platform.

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Google is untouchable
By rika13 on 3/13/2007 3:36:23 PM , Rating: 0
the DMCA (most of which is actually VERY good law, the only part that isn't is the protection of copy protection) explicitly gives online service providers protection from suits unless the copyright holder specifically requests a certain infringing material be taken down and that material was not removed

Google doesn't have to monitor anything legally, this seems more like Sony (who owns Viacom) trying to recoup some cash for it's various failures (rootkits, battery bombs, ps3, bad movies, bad management who wont play with ipod, etc.)

RE: Google is untouchable
By aos007 on 3/13/2007 3:58:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the burden IS on Viacom to monitor the material. That particular section of the lawsuit is nothing short of frivolous. It's like saying that the police should check every car that rolls out from a garage to the street before it's allowed to actually enter the traffic. It's likely the percentage of copyrighted material on that site is fairly high, but as I learned from Wing Commander 4, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance".

RE: Google is untouchable
By Ard on 3/13/2007 3:59:17 PM , Rating: 3
We're going to have to disagree on whether the DMCA is good law. I see it as a plague that has done nothing more than curtail fair use rights. The fact that you can now be liable under the Copyright Act without actually committing copyright infringement, contributory, vicarious, or otherwise, is simply ludicrous.

In any event, as to Google being untouchable, that's up for debate. The case is going to turn on how much action on Google/YouTube's part is enough. The DMCA safe harbor provisions only protect you if you abide by the takedown notices. If YouTube is abiding by some and ignoring others I think a court could easily hold that they're simply not doing enough to fall under the safe harbor provisions.

While you are correct that ISPs/OSPs have no legal duty to monitor what their users post (that onus is placed on the content owner as part of the requirement that they police their works), they can still be found contributorily liable if they're actively inducing their users to infringe (courtesy the Supreme Court's holding in MGM v. Grokster) or if they have knowledge of infringement and are doing nothing to stop it. All of this of course is going to turn on YouTube's business model.

Finally, please do not try to turn this into another typical Sony bashing. Why? Because Sony has absolutely nothing to do with Viacom and nothing to do with this case. Viacom is part of CBS Corp.

RE: Google is untouchable
By darkangelism on 3/13/2007 4:27:53 PM , Rating: 3
RE: Google is untouchable
By INeedCache on 3/13/2007 7:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
First off, if you think Google is untouchable, you'd better think again. Google may be a decent-sized player in their own playground, but when you start playing with the bigger boys in a more public playground, you best be careful. A lot of those video clips on youtube have disclaimers, which prohibit unauthorized retransmittion, which is what is happening on youtube. They own the site, so they do have the obligation to monitor everything that is on there. Wait and see what happens here. They will either settle out of court with Google forking over a big chunk of change, or go to court where they will face more than formidable competition, and where they will likely lose and face a big judgement anyway. Why do some seem to believe Google and Apple are untouchable? No company is.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs
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