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Viacom appeals ruling in landmark YouTube lawsuit

December 3, 2010 | 12:56 pm

Media giant Viacom Inc. has challenged a June ruling that video website YouTube, its founders and current owner Google Inc. did not run afoul of federal copyright laws when it allowed users to upload thousands of pirated clips to the wildly popular site.

In its 72-page appeal, which had been expected, Viacom again asserted that YouTube's founders aggressively operated outside the rules in an effort to quickly build traffic so they could turn around and sell the site for a king's ransom. Google Inc. bought YouTube in October 2006 for $1.65 billion.  Viacom pointed to a Google offer of about $600 million to license its content as proof that it realized the value of its programming -- including clips from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "South Park" and "MTV Cribs"-- to YouTube's legitimacy.

Viacom's lawsuit has been viewed by the media industry as a crucial vehicle to establish ground rules for protecting copyrighted content on the Internet.  Viacom originally asked for more than $1 billion in damages.  But U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton of the Southern District of New York ruled in June that neither YouTube nor Google could be held liable for violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act becase they promptly removed pirated videos after being notified that there was a violation. 

Viacom believes that Stanton misinterpreted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and provided internal YouTube emails that illustrated that the site's founders realized that the lure of clips from "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report" and other shows was helping boost interest in the site.  YouTube launched five years ago.

Viacom offered one communique as an example: "YouTube’s founders applied a no-holds-barred approach, with one exhorting his colleagues to 'concentrate all of our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil.'"

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

-- Meg James

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