Viacom launches massive lawsuit against YouTube, Google

Just six weeks after Viacom issued a public demand that YouTube scrub its database clean of Viacom-owned content, the media empire has decided that the Google-controlled streaming video site has not gone far enough, fast enough. Viacom has now issued a massive legal complaint against the site, seeking damages and a court-ordered overhaul to YouTube's copyright protection and IP-owner cooperation.

Viacom International and several of its media subsidiaries and content-generating organizations, including Comedy Partners, operators of the Comedy Central cable network, and Paramount Pictures represent the plaintiff. The suit names both YouTube and parent company Google as defendants. The 27-page complaint was filed in the US District Court, New York Southern District.

In its complaint, Viacom contends that it has identified at least 150,000 video snippets representing at least 1.5 billion user views, although it goes on to complain that it believes that number is a minority of the true figure due to YouTube's lack of aggressive policing of the site or strong cooperation with Viacom to remove copyrighted content. In addition to charging YouTube with willful copyright infringement and enablement, Viacom goes on to say that YouTube's person-to-person sharing, offsite embedding, and limited search results make it difficult for Viacom to identify the full extent of infringing materials. All the while, Viacom contends, YouTube and Google reap the benefits of ad placement as visitors travel to their website to view Viacom-controlled intellectual property.

In all, Viacom claims YouTube and Google are engaging in "direct copyright infringement", "inducement of copyright infringement", "contributory copyright infringement", and "vicarious copyright infringement." Viacom asks for at least $1 billion plus its various legal fees, as well as a permanent injunction designed to force YouTube and Google to take stronger action against copyright violations. The company makes a note to hail its authorized content redistribution deals with Joost and iTunes in contrast to YouTube's practices. YouTube and Google have not yet released a public response to the complaint.