Viacom is seeking $1bn (£519m) in damages against YouTube and owner Google for copyright infringement claiming the site’s business model is “illegal”.
The global entertainment content company which owns MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon has filed a federal copyright infringement complaint today against YouTube, the web’s most popular video sharing website, in America.
The complaint has been lodged at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for “massive intentional copyright infringement” of Viacom’s entertainment properties.
The suit seeks more than $1 billion in damages, as well as an injunction that would prohibit Google and YouTube using clips from any of its programmes.
The complaint contends that almost 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom’s programming have been made available on YouTube and that these clips had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.
A Viacom statement says: “YouTube is a significant, for-profit organisation that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others’ creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google.
“Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws.”
Viacom believes that YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking “proactive” steps to curtail infringement, and this has generated traffic and revenues for the website while shifting the burden and cost of monitoring onto the “victims of its infringement”.
The statement continues: “There is no question that YouTube and Google are continuing to take the fruit of our efforts without permission and destroying enormous value in the process.”
It says unproductive negotiation and remedial efforts have failed and forced the media giant to turn to the courts.
The action contrasts with a deal that YouTube agreed earlier this month with the BBC. Three YouTube channels – one for news and two for entertainment – will showcase short clips of BBC content. The BBC hopes that the deal will help it reach YouTube’s monthly audience of more than 70 million users and drive extra traffic to its own website. The corporation will also get a share of the advertising revenue generated by traffic to the new YouTube channels.