Viacom's US$1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube and its parent company, Google, threatens the way that hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange various kinds of content via the Internet, Google contended in an answer to an amended version of the complaint filed by Viacom last month.
In court papers filed last Friday in US District Court, Google said that YouTube does more than it is required to do by federal law to help content owners protect their works. And Google claimed that by seeking through the lawsuit to make network carriers and hosting providers liable for Internet communications, Viacom is putting at risk the ability of online users to share "information, news, entertainment, and political and artistic expression."
Google, which was sued by Viacom in March 2007, made similar arguments against the lawsuit in an initial response filed last spring.
Viacom declined to comment on Google's latest response. The entertainment company claims that YouTube and Google are infringing on its copyrights because nearly 160,000 Viacom-owned video clips have been made available for viewing on YouTube without authorization.
Google, which acquired YouTube in late 2006, said in its filing that the video-sharing Web site has adhered to the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA provides a framework to regulate copyrights in the world of electronic content, giving copyright holders procedures to follow to protect their content when alleged violations occur and offering protections to Web-based businesses and Internet users to cover unintentional posting of copyrighted materials.
According to Google's filing, YouTube has responded to infringement complaints by content owners as required by the DMCA. YouTube "fulfills its end of the DMCA bargain, and indeed goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works," Google said.
In its amended complaint, which requests a jury trial, Viacom said that while YouTube claims to be a forum for users to share their own original videos, a vast amount of the content posted on the site consists of "infringing copies" of Viacom's copyrighted works. That includes material from popular TV shows and movies such as SpongeBob SquarePants, South Park, An Inconvenient Truth, Mean Girls and many more.
"Unauthorized copies of these and other copyrighted works are posted daily on YouTube, and each is viewed tens of thousands of times," Viacom asserted in the amended complaint. It said that Google and YouTube have done almost nothing to stop the alleged copyright infringement, and have actually helped promote infringement by YouTube users.
"Defendants actively engage in, promote and induce this infringement," Viacom wrote, adding that YouTube "knowingly reproduces, distributes, publicly performs and publicly displays the copyrighted works uploaded to its site."
A federal judge ruled in March that Viacom couldn't add a request for punitive damages to the lawsuit, saying that such damages can't be collected under copyright laws.