Viacom has settled a long-running lawsuit against Google over alleged copyright violations. Viacom accused Google of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by hosting protected content on the latter’s subsidiary YouTube.
Under the DMCA, copyright holders can demand compensation from or file “takedown” notices with content providers that host protected material. Content providers such as YouTube cannot be held liable so long as they promptly remove infringing material following a takedown notice.
Viacom filed the $1 billion lawsuit in 2007, just one year after Google snapped up YouTube for $1.65 billion. Viacom alleged its major products like South Park and The Daily Show were being distributed via YouTube while Google engaged in a policy of “willful blindness” for the sake of increased traffic.
The 7-year battle has seen its share of shenanigans. Google accused Viacom of uploading copyrighted material to YouTube and then flooding the site with automated DMCA takedown notices. According to Google, Viacom hired marketing firms to “rough up” their releases and upload them to YouTube in a campaign to smear the video-sharing site as a pirates’ bazaar. Viacom, for its part, accused Google of ignoring rampant copyright infringement and called the site’s business model “illegal.”
In a joint statement announcing the settlement the media giants praised the “collaborative dialogue” between them and said they “look forward to working more closely together” in the future.
The shift in tone raises the question of quid pro quo. How did Google compensate Viacom for its alleged DMCA violations? Google has seen scores of infringement complaints against YouTube and has resolved most of them by sharing advertising revenue with copyright holders. Viacom already has several channels on YouTube hosting its content and generating ad revenue, so it isn’t a simple matter of getting paid. Although the terms of the settlement are secret, there are no provisions for direct compensation, according to a Reuters’ source. A huge cash settlement is probably worth much less to Viacom than special content-licensing agreements with YouTube and a future of joint projects with the highly successful and cutting-edge Google.