Viacom sues YouTube for US$1bn

14 Mar 2007

After failing to reach agreement over the posting of over 160,000 clips of shows such as South Park on YouTube, media player Viacom is to sue the Google-owned video sharing site and its owner for US$1bn.

The suit, which is being brought in a federal court in New York, alleges intentional copyright infringement on the part of YouTube and is the most aggressive brought to date against the Google-owned venture.

It is being alleged that YouTube users have posted unauthorised clips of popular TV shows like MTV Unplugged and Sponge Bob Squarepants that have been viewed online more than 1.5 billion times.

“YouTube is a significant, for-profit organisation that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others’ creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google,” Viacom said.

“Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws.

“In fact, YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden – and high cost – of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement,” Viacom thundered.

The company said that after a great deal of “unfruitful negotiation and remedial efforts” by Viacom and other copyright holders it is taking the matter to the courts.

Google acquired YouTube last year for US$1.65bn and the rise of the popular site, which was established in 2004, has stunned the traditional media sectors.

At the time it is understood that YouTube agreed to remove more than 100,000 Viacom clips from its site.

As well as seeking more than US$1bn in damages, Viacom is seeking an injunction preventing YouTube and Google from further alleged copyright infringement.

By John Kennedy