It’s a showdown of new media and sorta-old media as YouTube defends itself against Viacom in the TV leviathan’s billion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit against the site that showed the world that cats can indeed play the piano.
In court documents made public yesterday, Viacom accuses YouTube of knowingly hosting content that violated copyright laws. They allege that the online video site took a calculated risk when it first started, looking the other way at infringing material in an effort to gain an audience.
Viacom also claims that Google lowered its own copyright standards when it purchased YouTube in 2006. “Instead of screening as was done at Google Video, now every infringing video would remain freely available on YouTube until a copyright owner could detect it and send a takedown notice,” Viacom writes in its filing with the court.
They point to an e-mail from Google co-founder Sergey Brin where he admits “we’ll profit from illegal downloads” as evidence that the company put revenue ahead of legality.
Viacom is seeking $1 billion in damages.
For their part, YouTube claims they have been and continue to be vigilant about removing videos that infringe upon existing copyrights. They claim that they are covered by the “Safe Harbors” provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives online services protection from copyright liability if they remove unauthorized content once they’re on notice of its existence on the site.
Speaking specifically to Viacom’s claims, YouTube writes on their official blog:
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… In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.
Both sides are reportedly hoping that the judge in the case will make a ruling without having to resort to a trial.
Broadcast Yourself [Official YouTube Blog]