Google and Viacom have settled a seven-year-old lawsuit in which Viacom charged Google with copyright infringement for enabling the streaming of Viacom’s television programs via Google’s YouTube unit.
Viacom sued Google for $1 billion in 2007, after Google bought YouTube for about $1.65 billion in 2006.
Viacom owns the Paramount movie studio and cable networks such as MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon.
The dispute involved clips users had uploaded from shows like “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “South Park,” and Sponge Bob Square Pants.” YouTube was accused of illegally distributing 79,000 copyrighted videos on its website between 2005 and 2008.
The details of the settlement were not disclosed, but reportedly did not involve a monetary payment by either company.
In 2012, Google announced a licensing agreement with Paramount under which it obtained the rights to show 500 movies, including “The Godfather” trilogy and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on YouTube and Google Play.
In April, 2013, a US district judge granted summary judgment for YouTube, on the grounds that there was no evidence that the site’s executives know about the specific Viacom-owned clips that Viacom claimed were infringing. The judge rejected Viacom’s argument that YouTube should actively monitor the content being uploaded to its site at the rate of more than 24 hours of video every minute.
The judge concluded that YouTube was protected by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Viacom appealed that decision to the Second Circuit, which has not yet heard oral arguments or issued an opinion.
Under the DMCA, copyright owners have the burden of identifying infringing material posted by end users on sites such as YouTube. The DMCA limits the liability of online service providers for copyright infringement by others, as long as the service providers comply with the DMCA’s “notice and takedown” procedures.
If you have questions about liability for copyrighted material posted by third parties on your website, and if you want to assure that you are complying with the DMCA, contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation with one of our copyright attorneys.
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