Viacom sued YouTube and its parent company, Google, for $1 billion in damages today. [Release | PDF of the suit]

The federal copyright infringement suit contends that 160,000 unauthorized clips from Viacom-owned shows have been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube—and Viacom won’t take it any more.

Beyond the damages, Viacom is tired of haggling with the Google-owned Web video giant and also seeks to prevent future copyright infringement on YouTube: "After a great deal of unproductive negotiation, and remedial efforts by ourselves and other copyright holders, YouTube continues in its unlawful business model."

At least one observer was unimpressed by the suit, or the hefty price tag attached to it. Internet analyst Henry Blodget observed, "Big Whoop," calling the suit irrelevant, absurd and "chump change" to Viacom.

Viacom president/CEO Philippe Dauman gave some background to today’s legal escalation on the company’s Mar. 1 earnings call [Seeking Alpha transcript]: "We issued a large-scale takedown notice to Google and YouTube a few weeks ago. We are heartened by the broad industry support of this action. Since we issued the takedown notice, video streaming traffic on our sites has increased dramatically. This is an important validation of our strategy."

But as evidenced in Viacom’s recent deal with online video aggregator Joost, the owner of MTV Networks, BET, Paramount, DreamWorks and numerous websites is not adverse to sharing its content with other portals willing to respect its rights and share revenues.

As Dauman noted on the earnings call, "We are interested in entering into deals that provide distribution for our content in a controlled way that respects our copyright and we think we can generating incremental revenues that way, which is why we recently entered into the deal with Joost."

Viacom spent months scouring YouTube to prepare for this suit, according to the Los Angeles Times. More than 1.8 million videos were searched by dozens of contractors trolling YouTube in order to identify the 160,000 illegally uploaded clips from MTV, Comedy Central and its other properties cited in the suit.

The Daily


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