Two heavy weight fighters are finally at one another. Viacom, the owner of Paramount Pictures and cable-TV networks including MTV and Comedy Central, filed a lawsuit against YouTube, now owned by Google, in 2007. The lawsuit was filed in the Southern District Court of New York for "massive intentional copyright infringement." Both sides have kept themselves pretty much in a shell since then, but now, both are barking loudly against each other, Viacom claiming that Google's YouTube exploited copyrighted works for profit, while Google is arguing that "Viacom itself had secretly uploaded copyrighted clips it later demanded YouTube to remove."
Viacom is alleging that "YouTube was intentionally built on infringement and there are countless internal YouTube communications demonstrating that YouTube's founders and its employees intended to profit from that infringement," said Viacom in a statement. Viacom had disclosed 150,000 such potential infringements on YouTube. Furthermore, Viacom revealed in a court message sent on June 19, 2005, from the YouTube co-founder Steve Chen to another co-founder Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim:
"Jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site. We're going to have a tough time defending the fact that we're not liable for the copyrighted material on the site because we didn't put it up when one of the co-founders is blatantly stealing content from other sites and trying to get everyone to see it."
Another email from Mr. Chen stated that all employees "should concentrate all our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil."
Viacom is seeking $1 billion from the defendant
On the other hand, Google is counter-arguing that "For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its present there," stated Zahavah Levine, YouTube's chief counsel, on her blog. She further mentioned that "It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately 'roughed up' the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko's to upload clips from computers that could not be traced to Viacom."
Google is also arguing that it is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which shield publishers from liability for certain terms and conditions, such as for materials posted by third users or removing contents upon requests from the copyright holders.
Both parties are given until April 30 to file opposing briefs against the other's motions. All arguments are expected to be completed by June.
* Bloomberg Picture