This morning, Viacom filed a federal copyright-infringement lawsuit against YouTube and Google, alleging that almost 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom’s programming were available on the video-sharing site, and that they’d been watched more than 1.5 billion times. Now, Viacom is looking to get paid–to the tune of more than a billion dollars:
“YouTube is a significant, for-profit organization that 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. Their 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. In fact, YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden – and high cost – of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement.
This behavior stands in stark contrast to the actions of other significant distributors, who have recognized the fair value of entertainment content and have concluded agreements to make content legally available to their customers around the world.
There is no question that YouTube and Google are continuing to take the fruit of our efforts without permission and destroying enormous value in the process. This is value that rightfully belongs to the writers, directors and talent who create it and companies like Viacom that have invested to make possible this innovation and creativity.
After a great deal of unproductive negotiation, and remedial efforts by ourselves and other copyright holders, YouTube continues in its unlawful business model. Therefore, we must turn to the courts to prevent Google and YouTube from continuing to steal value from artists and to obtain compensation for the significant damage they have caused.”
We’re guessing that most of the clips Viacom is suing over are from The Daily Show and Letterman, although we’re curious if reposting videos with the MTV or VH1 Classic bugs counts as “infringement” (if so, that explains the inflated watch-count). But even if it’s not dealing directly with music, this case is worth keeping an eye on because of its precedent-setting possibilities–if it ends with Google forking over money to Viacom, expect the major labels to rush in with lawsuits of their own. (Hey, it’s a revenue stream, right?)