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Viacom Google copyright legal battle resolved

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The long-running Viacom Google copyright legal battle has been resolved, the two companies have announced.

The lawsuit, which started in 2007, has been settled out of court.

Viacom had originally sought $1 billion in damages from Google for unauthorized copyrighted material that had been uploaded onto YouTube.

In connection with the resolution of the Viacom Google litigation, the two companies jointly issued the following statement:

“Google and Viacom today jointly announced the resolution of the Viacom vs. YouTube copyright litigation. This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together.”

Viacom Google dispute settled without any payments

Viacom Google
A settlement was inevitable. Viacom needs YouTube’s exposure, and YouTube needs Viacom’s content.

Although neither company disclosed the terms of the settlement, several media sources believe no money has changed hands.

According to CNN Money, “In the settlement, neither company will pay any money to the other, according to a person with direct knowledge of the terms, who insisted on anonymity because the companies had agreed to not publicly discuss the terms.”

Given that Viacom had originally sued for $1 billion in damages, the Viacom Google settlement could be viewed as a victory for the defendant.

In April 2013, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan turned down Viacom’s claim for damages, after which the firm launched an appeal.

Judge Stanton concluded that YouTube did not have to constantly sweep through its website seeking out unauthorized videos, as long as the company removed such videos after the copyright owners asked it to do so.

Viacom and Google supporters

During the lawsuit, the following companies, individuals and organizations supported Viacom: the Eagles, Sting, Garth Books, the Screen Actors Guild, the National Football League, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Associated Press.

YouTube and Google backers included Human Rights Watch, the Consumers Union, Yahoo Inc., Tumblr Inc., Facebook Inc., and eBay Inc.

Google had profited before removing videos, said Viacom

Spongebob on YouTube
SpongeBob SquarePants (Viacom’s) is watched by millions of viewers on YouTube.

Viacom wanted to sue because hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers had watched shows such as South Park, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. However, no authorization had been granted to upload those programs.

Google responded by citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which states that a host site cannot be liable for material its users upload, as long as it removes the content when the copyright holder asks it to do so.

Google says it removed unauthorized videos when notified. Viacom argued that Google still made money on the unauthorized videos before removing them. Viacom alleged that Google had broadcast 79,000 copyrighted videos illegally between 2005 and 2008.

Most copyright owners happy with shared revenue model

YouTube was launched in 2005 and then acquired by Google in 2006 for $1.6 billion. Since its birth, YouTube has battled with content creators regarding copyrighted video footage being uploaded by users and then available worldwide free of charge.

Most disputes have been resolved using the shared revenue model, in which Google and the copyright holders both split advertising revenue.

Sumner Redstone
Sumner Redstone has voting control of Viacom via his control of National Amusements Inc. He also has a controlling stake in CBS Corporation.

In an interview with Reuters UK, June Besek, a Columbia Law School lecturer and intellectual property specialist, said “Content providers and service providers are finding it more constructive to work together rather than litigate. Content providers need a Google to filter material, and Google needs content to attract people to its websites.”

Since Viacom filed the lawsuit, YouTube has become the biggest video-sharing website worldwide, and also a partner to dozens of media companies, Viacom included.

Viacom’s future success and growth are closely linked to Google and other technology companies, something the two companies have acknowledged.

The two companies have independently expressed interest in delivering cable channel bundles online, referred to as ’Over the Top TV’.

Viacom is based in New York and is controlled by Sumner Redstone. It owns Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, the Paramount movie studio, and MTV.

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