Viacom Inc, multimedia conglomerate and owner of MTV, announced on Tuesday that it has filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google Inc. and the video sharing website YouTube (recently purchased by Google), over what Viacom claims is massive, unauthorized use of Viacom’s copyrighted material. According to the suit, Viacom is seeking an immediate injunction against any further violations of what Viacom is calling “massive intentional copyright infringement.”
A Viacom statement said the suit only came after months of “unproductive negotiation,” with Google and YouTube. According to Viacom statistics, nearly 160,000 unauthorized clips have been uploaded to the website, and have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.
“YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site,” Viacom said in a statement. “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 February, Viacom demanded that YouTube remove more than 100,000 clips the media giant had identified as breaking its copyright. This led to negotiations, but they proved fruitless, which led to Tuesday’s lawsuit.
“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,” said Viacom. “This is value that 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.”
This is not the first clash YouTube has had with copyright owners. Both CBS and NBC had complained about copyright infringement, but both groups eventually reached deals with the video-sharing website to officially license their content. Universal Music Group had also threatened to sue, claiming YouTube was a magnet for illegal sharing of music videos, but as with NBC and CBS, the two groups were able to agree to licensing terms.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Viacom’s complaint is very similar to other file sharing lawsuits, historically. When Napster was sued, the main thrust of the argument against the peer-to-peer network was that it was not taking an active role in policing the content users were sharing. The ability was there to control what was on the website, but the company chose not to monitor. After that lawsuit was resolved, Napster ultimately implemented content controls, a likely outcome in this instance as well, say some observers, given the fairly strong standing Viacom has in this case.