Google, YouTube hit with $1B copyright suit

Viacom claims thousands of unauthorized video clips can be viewed on YouTube

Media company Viacom International is suing online video provider YouTube and its parent company, Google, for more than US$1 billion, saying the companies are infringing on Viacom's copyrights because almost 160,000 unauthorized video clips are available for viewing on YouTube.

New York-based Viacom also said it is seeking an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from further copyright infringement. Google acquired YouTube in October for US$1.65 billion.

The 27-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that thousands of unauthorized clips of Viacom's programming have been viewed on YouTube more than 1.5 billion times.

In a statement e-mailed by a company spokesman, Google said it hasn't yet received the lawsuit but is "confident that YouTube has respected the legal rights of copyright holders and believe the courts will agree."

"YouTube is great for users and offers real opportunities to rights holders: the opportunity to interact with users; to promote their content to a young and growing audience; and to tap into the online advertising market. We will certainly not let this suit become a distraction to the continuing growth and strong performance of YouTube and its ability to attract more users, more traffic and build a stronger community," the statement said.

Viacom, in its statement said, "YouTube is a significant, for-profit organization that 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, Google."

"Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws. In fact, YouTube's strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden -- and high cost -- of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement," Viacom stated.

Viacom said it filed the suit "after a great deal of unproductive negotiation" and that "YouTube continues in its unlawful business model." Last month, the company demanded that YouTube remove more than 100,000 of Viacom's video clips from its site.

"There is no question that YouTube and Google are continuing to take the fruit of our efforts without permission and destroying enormous value in the process," Viacom said. "Therefore, we must turn to the courts to prevent Google and YouTube from continuing to steal value from artists and to obtain compensation for the significant damage they have caused."

A Viacom spokesman said the company has no comment beyond the press release and lawsuit.

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