Google to Viacom: you’re a threat to web freedom

27 May 2008

What should you do when someone threatens you with a lawsuit? Counter sue them of course, which is precisely what Google has done in reaction to Viacom’s US$1bn lawsuit for copyright infringement.

The web search giant filed papers to a New York court last Friday claiming the whopping US$1bn lawsuit hanging over its head was not necessary given that with YouTube it has not only complied with US copyright law but has in fact gone “far beyond” this to comply.

In the papers filed, Google said it “goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works.”

It has been over a year since Viacom filed a US$1bn lawsuit against the Google-owned YouTube on March 13, 2007 and it seems as though Google’s efforts in the interim to appease Viacom’s claims of copyright violation have not worked.

YouTube’s introduction of a filtering tool to prevent site members from posting copyright material was rejected by Viacom because the company was in the process of developing its own copyright technology.

Further to Google’s claims that it had complied with US law in light of Viacom content uploaded by its members, the company said that “by seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for internet communications, Viacom’s complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment and political and artistic expression.

“Viacom’s lawsuit challenges the protections of the DMCA [Digital Millenium Copyright Act] that (US) Congress enacted a decade ago to encourage the development of services like YouTube,” said Google in papers lodged to the New York court.

“Congress recognised that such services could not and would not exist if they faced liability for copyright infringement based on materials users uploaded to their services.

“It chose to immunise these services from copyright liability, provided they are properly responsive to notices of alleged infringement from content owners.”

Essentially, Google is looking for protection from the lawsuit by its compliance with the US DMCA of 1998, which it claims specifically protects services like YouTube.

Meanwhile, Viacom claims that video clips containing material it owns, including shows from MTV and Paramount, have been viewed over 1.5 billion times and that Google is profiting from this by placing advertising on these YouTube pages.

The bottom line from Google is that if Viacom wins this lawsuit, this could affect the nature of information-sharing, as well as artistic and political expression enjoyed on the internet – in order words, threaten our web way of life.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Screenshot of a Viacom-owned TV show being played on YouTube