Viacom sues YouTube, seeks $1 billion damages for copyright violations

Mumbai: In yet another clash of the old and the new media, Viacom Inc, the owner of television channels MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central, is suing popular video-sharing website YouTube and its parent Google Inc for over a billion dollars, for 'massive international copyright violation'.

Viacom's billion-dollar legal claims against Google's YouTube could lead to more media industry lawsuits and give a boost to rival online video services in the emerging marketplace.

The suit alleges that about 160,000 clips of Viacom entertainment programme have been uploaded on the site and viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

Viacom owns Paramount Pictures, Dream Works and several cable channels including the MTV and Comedy Central.

It is seeking an injunction against YouTube to end copyright infringement as also damages worth more than $1 billion.

Intellectual property lawyers in US are going into details of what will be a landmark case and are not yet ready to forecast the outcome.

So long as they are being compensated, content providers have very little to complain. The complexity is of YouTube's situation where there's a large amount of content simply because people have uploaded copyright-protected content.

Also, in the past YouTube has been able to get away with reproduction of other people's content.

Moreover, there are different models for content delivery. For instance, for web delivery of content, one can pay and download a song with iTunes. On the other hand there was Napster, where everybody uploaded whatever and downloaded whatever they wanted.

YouTube cannot afford to be in either mode, simply because it is now a part of Google, which wants to stay a legitimate business, and therefore needs to follow copyright laws. Now, for the first time, Google, through YouTube, is delivering copyrighted content.

YouTube is actually paying money to copyright owners, to have content. It's just that it is not paying money for all the content. The conundrum for Google is whether YouTube can convert Viacom into another happy content provider who is getting paid an agreed amount.

The outcome of the suit, filed in the US District Court for Southern District of New York, would be closely watched as this could have profound effect on the future functioning of the information sharing web sites.