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Viacom Sues YouTube Over Copyrights

Tuesday March 13, 12:46 pm ET

By Seth Sutel, AP Business Writer

Viacom Sues Google's YouTube for Alleged Copyright Infringement, Seeks $1B in Damages


NEW YORK (AP) -- MTV owner Viacom Inc. sued the popular video-sharing site YouTube and its corporate parent, Google Inc., on Tuesday, seeking more than $1 billion in damages on claims of widespread copyright infringement.


Viacom claims that YouTube has displayed nearly 160,000 unauthorized video clips from its cable networks, which also include Comedy Central, VH1 and Nickelodeon.


The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, marks a sharp escalation of long-simmering tensions between Viacom and YouTube and represents the biggest confrontation to date between a major media company and the hugely popular video-sharing site, which Google bought in November for $1.76 billion.


YouTube's soaring popularity has been a cause of fascination but also fear among the owners of traditional media outlets, who worry that YouTube's displaying of user-uploaded clips from their programs -- without compensation -- will lure away viewers and ad dollars from cable and broadcast TV.


Viacom is especially at risk because many of its shows, which include "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "The Colbert Report" and "South Park" are aimed at younger audiences who also are heavy Internet users.


The lawsuit came nearly six weeks after Viacom demanded that YouTube remove more than 100,000 unauthorized clips after several months of talks over licensing arrangements broke down. YouTube agreed at the time to comply and said it cooperates with all copyright holders to remove programming as soon as they're notified.


But since then, Viacom has identified more than 50,000 additional unauthorized clips, Viacom spokesman Jeremy Zweig said.


In a statement, Viacom lashed out at YouTube's business practices, saying it 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 YouTube's 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."


Viacom said YouTube has avoided taking the initiative to curtail copyright infringement on its site, instead shifting the burden and costs of monitoring the video-sharing site for unauthorized clips onto the "victims of its infringement."


In a statement, Google said it believed the courts will agree "that YouTube has respected the legal rights of copyright holders."


"We will certainly not let this suit become a distraction to the continuing growth and strong performance of YouTube and its ability to attract more users, more traffic and build a stronger community," Google said.


Other media companies have also clashed with YouTube over copyrights, but some, including CBS Corp. and General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, have reached deals with the video-sharing site to license their material. CBS Corp. used to be part of Viacom but has since split off into a separate company.


Universal Music Group, a unit of France's Vivendi SA, had threatened to sue YouTube, saying it was a hub for pirated music videos, but later reached a licensing deal with the company.


Bruce Sunstein, co-founder of intellectual property law firm Bromberg & Sunstein in Boston, said YouTube was still in the early stages of what was likely to be a "very long working-out of arrangements" with the owners of broadcast copyrights.


"Finding a way of peaceful coexistence is quite a struggle," Sunstein said. "Google's motto is 'Don't be Evil,' and you could argue that with YouTube that motto is wearing a little thin."


Besides damages, Viacom is also seeking an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from using its clips.


While YouTube has yet to generate much revenue, its online traffic has been growing rapidly. According to comScore Media Metrix, YouTube attracted 133.5 million visitors worldwide in January, up from 9.5 million a year earlier.


Google shares dropped $9.25, or 2.0 percent, to $445.50 in midday trading Tuesday on the Nasdaq Stock Market, while Viacom's Class B shares rose 47 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $40.04 on the New York Stock Exchange.



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We have recently seen YouTube used in the US as a political propoganda distribution outlet.


The whole "anti-Hillary video by an Obama supporter" issue was headlines for a couple days. Then the eye of the mass media moved on.


But the impact was felt. I predict a great increase in videos produced by amatures (and professionals?) that are not traceable to any campaign movment. Video is a powerful medium, and YouTube (and similar sites) provide unprecedented access to mass media markets, particularly among the young.


And it is not just a USian phenom. By way of example, here is a video on French politician Leon Degrelle:


What is he saying? Well, without trying to make a word-for-word transcript, and with apologies to our French members (who will, I am sure, correct my work) for the fast-and-sloppy translation, it runs kind of along these lines...


>>>being Mark's fast and sloppy translation<<<

"We too have a dream"

(literally: We others we have dreamed)


And when we see this idea for what it is -- the history that others have given us -- it is how the world is made. The burden (bondage?) of the white world. It is the univeral task. When we look at the composition of our country, the path of our fatherland ("la patri" - a reasonable term in French, not commonly tied to images of Nazi Germany as "fatherland" is in English), the path of our families, our social evolution... (etc etc.)


When we look at the materials we use to build the great living flame or our ideals, we see that we have a choice between two:


A future with Europe miserable, as it is today, becoming the bazaar of mankind. Or as the source of humanity's growth and progress, a return to something grandios, larger than life ... (etc. etc.)


And that is what I dedicate myself to. So long as I have strength to give ... (etc. etc.)

>>>end translation<<<


I am interpreting it as a clever bit of anti-Degrelle propoganda to embed images of Nazis in the video (and the reference to "Volksfuehrer" at the end). I would have made the connection without those images, from his gestures, from his world choice, from his content. But I'm guessing that those with less sense of history -- the average farm-hand or factory worker, for example, might not have.


In any case, not exactly the way candidates talk around here.


-Mark 1

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