Viacom on Tuesday slapped YouTube and parent company Google with a lawsuit, accusing the wildly popular video-sharing site of “massive intentional copyright infringement” and seeking more than $1 billion in damages.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, contends that nearly 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom’s entertainment programming have been available on YouTube and that these clips have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times. (PDF: Viacom’s complaint)
Findlaw has the paperwork: Viacom’s Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against YouTube and Google
“When YouTube was a fun start-up that wasn’t monetizing the content, I was fine with it,” said Ben Silverman, executive producer behind such popular shows as “The Office” on NBC and “Ugly Betty” on ABC. “But the moment they sold themselves for $1.6 billion and became a service that was making money off other people’s content, the game changed.”
Viacom contends that since YouTube has successfully screened pornography from the videos its users contribute, it should be able to police the site for copyrighted material. When Viacom asked Google to take action, “they kept saying, ‘It’s difficult,’ ” Viacom spokesman Carl Folta said. “If it’s difficult, shut your site down until you get it right.”
But Viacom didn’t want to shoot and miss in filing its claim. So it had to painstakingly verify whether clips were improperly copied, might be considered fair use or were even relevant to its lawsuit.
For example, was a clip featuring comedian Jon Stewart in the title lifted from Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” or did it come from one of his outside appearances? Snippets of a video from MTV meshed with an amateur one could be considered fair use. And a clip with Comedy Central’s “Stephen Colbert” in the title might simply be an amateur stand-up desperate for the attention of viewers.
As a result, dozens of workers had to spend hours effectively being paid to watch YouTube.
“You’d see people walking around the building with their eyes glazed over,” said Mark M. Ishikawa, chief executive of BayTSP, a Los Gatos, Calif., company Viacom hired. Shifts were limited to four hours.
Still another problem was separating which clips YouTube was authorized to use. [...]
The NYTimes article: Viacom Sues Google Over Video Clips on Its Sharing Web Site