YouTube claims Viacom manipulated video takedowns

19 Mar 2010

The ongoing legal spat between YouTube and Viacom following the US$1-billion copyright infringement lawsuit slapped on the video-sharing site has become heated with the release of court documents from both companies.

These court documents, made public today by the US District Court, show what exactly has been going on between the two organisations.

YouTube claims media conglomerate Viacom not only was aware of copyright content existing on YouTube, but delayed takedown until all content could be pulled down in “one dramatic event”.

Viacom’s initial plan, says YouTube, was to buy the online video site: “While plaintiffs allege in their legal filings that YouTube is some kind of ‘pirate’ site, behind the scenes Viacom thought so highly of YouTube that it tried, unsuccessfully, to buy it.”

During the negotiations, YouTube alleges that Viacom deliberately left its content on the site because “having the content there was valuable in terms of helping the rating of our shows”.

“After the negotiations stalled, Viacom developed a plan to send YouTube a large DCMA takedown notice, in the hopes of gaining leverage and ‘provide (Viacom) the economics’ it had requested.

“Viacom wanted a mass takedown to occur in ‘one dramatic event (as opposed to drips)’.”

YouTube says Viacom has secretly expected its own site traffic to increase as YouTube’s fell following the mass takedown but that “neither prediction came true”.

Viacom made its own position clear in an official statement published on its website: “YouTube was intentionally built on infringement and there are countless internal YouTube communications demonstrating that YouTube’s founders and its employees intended to profit from that infringement.

“By their own admission, the site contained ’truckloads’ of infringing content and founder Steve Chen explained that YouTube needed to ‘steal’ videos because those videos make ‘our traffic soar.’

By Marie Boran

Photo: The US District Court has released court documents pertaining to the battle between YouTube and Viacom