Google Hits Back Against Viacom

Last week, news broke that Viacom’s summary judgment motion against YouTube contained some rather incriminating internal memos from both YouTube and Google — which appeared to show execs encouraging each other to “steal” copyrighted content and host it on YouTube.

Specifically, Viacom singled out an email from YouTube exec Steve Chen: “Steal it!” Chen wrote, presumably referring to copyrighted Viacom content. “[W]e need to attract traffic…[T]he only reason why our traffic surged was due to a video of this type.”

The evidence looked compelling. But Google, YouTube’s parent company, isn’t exactly a wilting daisy. They’ve since responded that Viacom was the one posting copyrighted material on YouTube to promote their shows — even as they pursued litigation.

From Zahavah Levine, YouTube Chief Counsel, on the site’s official blog:

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. 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 couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Given Viacom’s own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site. But Viacom thinks YouTube should somehow have figured it out. The legal rule that Viacom seeks would require YouTube — and every Web platform — to investigate and police all content users upload, and would subject those web sites to crushing liability if they get it wrong.

Further eroding Viacom’s evidence is the fact that Chen’s quote appears to have been taken out of context, and TechCrunch noted after going through the email in its entirety.

Previously on FBLA:

YouTube Vs. Viacom: Not Looking Good for YouTube