No Money Changes Hands in Settlement
Seven years after filing a $1 billion lawsuit against Google, in which Viacom accused the internet search giant of posting Viacom’s content without regard to copyright, the two sides reached a settlement on Tuesday, 18 March 2014, in which no money changed hands.
Filed in 2007, the litigation drew attention from the music, movie, and internet industries, and tested the reach of federal copyright laws. The lawsuit accused Google of illegally broadcasting nearly 80,000 copyrighted videos on the popular video website between 2005 and 2008, including clips from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, South Park, and other programs, all of which had been uploaded by YouTube users.
Viacom may have ultimately sought to bring an end to the suit on the best terms possible—in 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled that responsibility for finding the allegedly unlawfully uploaded videos fell on Viacom’s shoulders, not Google’s or, by extension, YouTube’s. Stanton concluded that YouTube and Google’s only responsibility in the matter is to remove such videos after receiving demands from copyright owners.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 made it illegal to produce technology to circumvent anti-piracy measures, but limited the liability of online service providers for copyright infringements by their users. Stanton ruled that YouTube did not interact with users who uploaded content closely enough to have engaged in infringing activity.
A Sign of Changing Times?
In a joint statement, Google and Viacom said, “This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together.”
When the lawsuit was filed, YouTube wasn’t nearly the advertising revenue giant it is now. At the time, the entire online video advertising industry generated approximately $580 million, a fraction of what Viacom itself made through its media advertising efforts. In 2014, however, video advertising is projected to bring in up to sixteen times the 2007 total—over $9.2 billion. And Google is working to create feasible alternatives to traditional television advertising to drive those totals up even higher.
To that end, Viacom reached an agreement with Sony last summer to stream its programming, and in April 2012, Google announced a licensing agreement with Paramount—which is owned by Viacom—to bring nearly 500 movies to YouTube and Google Play stores.
For Further Information:
- “Google, Viacom Settle Landmark YouTube Lawsuit” http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/18/us-google-viacom-lawsuit-idUSBREA2H11220140318
- “Viacom Gives Up On Its YouTube Copyright Lawsuit” http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-18/viacom-gives-up-on-its-youtube-copyright-suit