Viacom-YouTube fight: From $1 billion suit to new BFFs?

That’s a wrap: Viacom, which filed a $1 billion lawsuit seven years ago over copyright issues involving its content posted on YouTube, has reached a settlement with Google.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, and a couple of reports say no money changed hands. Not only does Google not have to pay up, a sugary joint statement by the companies says they “look forward” to working together in the future, and mentions a “growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities.”

It’s not the first sign that Viacom realizes the value of YouTube in distributing content — as we wrote a couple of years ago, Viacom-owned Paramount began offering movie rentals on YouTube. (And Viacom’s not the only one; media owners are increasingly striking deals with online companies such as YouTube, Netflix and other distributors even as they continue to fight them.)

Viacom, which also owns TV networks such as Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, repeatedly failed to win significant victories throughout the companies’ long, intense legal battle. It had claimed that YouTube knowingly hosted Viacom’s copyrighted content and did nothing to stop it. But YouTube said Viacom also had hired others to upload its own content to YouTube and make them look stolen. The first big victory for Google came in a 2010 ruling citing a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that places the burden of proving copyright infringement on the copyright holder.

So, $1 billion water under the bridge. Case closed, copyright battles squashed?

Not quite. Even as YouTube has evolved into a site that allows networks, artists and others to distribute and make money from their work, Google continues to face copyright issues. Last week, the company testified before lawmakers reviewing the DMCA, with the company reportedly saying that sites that offer legitimate ways to access content are the best deterrent to piracy. The recording industry, meanwhile, is pushing for Google to do more to keep links to infringing content from coming back from the dead once they’ve been taken down.


Photo from Reuters archives


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