Viacom Brings $1 Bil. Suit vs. Google

NEW YORK Viacom became the first major media company to sue Google for copyright infringement, alleging that its YouTube property knowingly lets users violate the law.

The media giant’s suit, filed in Federal District Court here, asks for $1 billion in damages for “massive infringement” and an injunction requiring Google to proactively stop users from uploading copyrighted clips to the site.

YouTube’s policy is to comply with Digital Millenium Copyright Act requests from rights holders to remove content.

The lawsuit is the culmination of contentious negotiations between Viacom and Google. According to reports, the two sides were near a wide-ranging content and advertising deal late last year, only to have negotiations fall apart. Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion in October 2006.

Last month, Viacom publicly demanded YouTube remove 100,000 videos it said infringed their copyrights.

The lawsuit contends YouTube has carried nearly 160,000 clips of programming from Viacom properties like MTV and Comedy Central, and those clips have been viewed 1.5 billion times.

Google representatives were unavailable for comment.

In the 27-page filing, Viacom paints YouTube as a knowing enabler of copyright infringement by its users, turning a blind eye to obvious violations and reaping advertising revenue. It also alleges that YouTube has purposely delayed the introduction of filtering technology that would proactively filter copyrighted content.

“YouTube has built an infringement-driven business by exploiting the popularity of plaintiffs’ copyrighted works (and the works of other copyright owners) to draw millions of users to its Web site,” the suit alleges. “YouTube derives advertising revenue directly attributable to the infringing works.”