Documents in Viacom’s $1-billion lawsuit against YouTube are unsealed

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Let the spinning begin. Once-sealed court documents related to Viacom’s $1-billion copyright infringement lawsuit against YouTube landed in public view Thursday.

As expected, the documents, released by court order, highlight fundamental differences over the responsibility of social networks in monitoring user-uploaded content.


Viacom’s brief argued that YouTube knew that pirated videos had been uploaded to its site and sought to profit from the piracy since its inception in 2005.

In its motion for summary judgment, Viacom claimed that YouTube hid ‘behind a policy of willful blindness and seek to shift responsibility to clean up their site to victimized content owners like Viacom. Under both common and statutory law, the answer is clear: Defendants are liable for the rampant infringement they have fostered and profited from on YouTube.’

YouTube, acquired by Google in 2006 for $1.8 billion, argued Viacom’s accusations were baseless and that it had acted responsibly by removing infringing videos and later developed software tools to automatically identify and take down pirated videos. The San Bruno, Calif., company posted its statement on the case here.

YouTube also came out slugging, alleging that Viacom was responsible for uploading much of its own shows to YouTube. Here’s the money quote from YouTube:

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately ‘roughed up’ the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom.

We will continually update this post as we make our way through the court briefs.

-- Alex Pham