Landmark Copyright Suit Between Viacom, YouTube Is Settled

Mar 18, 2014 12:30 PM PST

NEW YORK — Google Inc. has settled a landmark copyright battle with Viacom Inc. that accused the search giant of posting content on the YouTube video service without permission.

The deal between the companies ends more than seven years of litigation that tested the reach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was designed to thwart piracy while letting people find content online.

According to Reuters, the settlement was a draw and no money changed hands.

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

News of the settlement won't help members of the adult entertainment industry, according to attorney D. Gill Sperlein, who litigates many cases on behalf of porn producers and distributors.

"I doubt this will bring much relief to adult companies or smaller independent producers," Sperlein told XBIZ. "The technology companies continue to successfully argue that they are good for consumers. While they do provide a lot of advantages, they continue to line their pockets while devaluing America's vibrant entertainment industry.

"The DMCA continues to be a massive failure," he said.

 In the original suit against Google, Viacom alleged that the search giant illegally broadcasted 79,000 copyrighted videos on its website between 2005 and 2008. Viacom, which owns cable networks such as Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon as well as the Paramount movie studio, had originally asked for $1 billion in damages.

Tuesday's settlement was announced 11 months after U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton rejected Viacom's damages claims over YouTube's alleged posting of clips that users uploaded.

Stanton wrote that YouTube didn't have to constantly scour its website for infringing videos, so long as it removed such videos after receiving DMCA takedown demands from copyright owners. He concluded that Google and YouTube were protected from Viacom's copyright claims by "safe harbor" provisions in the law.

Viacom had been appealing that ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and oral argument had been scheduled for March 24.

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