Viacom and Google settle massive copyright lawsuit

Google and Viacom have settled a copyright lawsuit filed by Viacom against Google's YouTube video service.
Google and Viacom have settled a copyright lawsuit filed by Viacom against Google’s YouTube video service.
(Georges Gobet / AFP/Getty Images)

A legal case originally billed as a $1-billion clash between old and new media titans -- Viacom Inc. and Google Inc. -- has ended in a settlement.

The two companies on Tuesday said they had concluded their long-running Viacom vs. YouTube copyright litigation -- without disclosing terms of the settlement.

Viacom initiated the suit in 2007. The New York cable television giant complained that Google’s YouTube had knowingly posted Viacom videos on its site without Viacom’s permission. Viacom asserted that postings of clips from “South Park,” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” constituted copyright violations worth at least $1 billion.


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In its suit, filed in federal court in New York, Viacom maintained that YouTube had a responsibility to immediately remove all pirated content from its site. YouTube countered that it had only the duty to take down specific videos identified by copyright holders.

Tuesday’s settlement comes after several legal setbacks in the case for Viacom. Last year, a judge tossed out Viacom’s damages claims for the postings of Comedy Central and Nickelodeon clips on YouTube from 2005 to 2008.

Viacom had been appealing that ruling.

“This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together,” the companies said in a joint statement.

Last year’s decision by U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton was his second ruling against Viacom. In June 2010, Stanton sided with YouTube by granting Google’s request for summary judgment in the case. He found that YouTube operated within the law.

When “YouTube was given notices, it removed the material,” Stanton wrote in his 30-page decision in 2010. “It is thus protected from liability” under a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.


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