Viacom’s one billion dollar case against Google over distribution of its copyrighted video on YouTube just took a turn for the worse. Google has made the very damning accusation that Viacom actually supported in efforts to have its content put on YouTube as pirated material, only to demand from YouTube later to pull the infringing videos. If these allegations are true, they would severely case Viacom’s legitimacy in the suit that began in March 2007 against YouTube for allowing 160,000 of Viacom’s videos to be posted.
The opening briefs of the case were released on Friday, and Google posted a scathing blog entry in the Official YouTube blog about this whole case. The first portion of it is dedicated to the ideological factor of this case. It points out that when content is made, regardless of who is the maker, there is a copyright on it, and the responsibility falls on the creator to whether or not it should be legal for the video to be hosted online. The hosting service provider, in this case YouTube, does not need to make this distinction.
The earth-shattering stuff comes later on. Google begins describing a very systematic and sophisticated process used by Viacom to enhance the problem of pirated videos:
“For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.”
Already, these are pretty steep accusations which question Viacom’s rationale regarding this whole case. It gets even worse when Viacom suddenly decided to demand YouTube remove videos en masse, only to ask for some of them to be reposted. The situation is best summed up with line: “In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.” If Google can show these allegations to be true, then Viacom’s entire case might be in the trash.