Viacom suit attacks net freedom, says Google

2 May 2007

In response to media firm Viacom’s US$1.1bn suit against YouTube, the video sharing site’s parent company Google described it as an attack on internet freedom and contravenes the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

In March, after failing to reach agreement over the posting of over 160,000 clips of shows such as South Park on YouTube, media player Viacom revealed plans 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.

However, responding to the filing, Google refuted all of Viacom’s claims that YouTube has enriched itself on the back of others’ creative works.

“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,” said Google’s managing counsel for litigation Michael Kwun.

Kwun said that YouTube, which Google acquired last year for US$1.65bn, is protected from charges of copyright violation under the Hosting Safe Harbour of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Under this provision, service providers that host other people’s content are “safe” from liability if they remove material a content owner alleges infringes on their copyright.

Kwun also pointed out that Viacom was among the many companies that were involved in actually designing the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

By John Kennedy