By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, March 18 Google Inc has
settled a landmark copyright lawsuit in which Viacom Inc
accused the Internet search company of posting its
programs on the YouTube video service without permission.
The settlement ends seven years of litigation that drew wide
attention from Hollywood, the music industry and Internet
companies, and which tested the reach of a federal law designed
to thwart piracy while letting people find entertainment online.
"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.
Terms were not disclosed. No money changed hands, a person
close to the matter said. The person was not authorized to
discuss the settlement's terms.
Viacom had originally filed a $1 billion lawsuit against
YouTube and others in 2007, and eventually accused the Google
unit of illegally broadcasting 79,000 copyrighted videos on its
website between 2005 and 2008.
Based in New York, Viacom is controlled by media mogul
Sumner Redstone, and owns cable networks such as Comedy Central,
MTV and Nickelodeon as well as the Paramount movie studio.
Google is based in Mountain View, California. It paid about
$1.65 billion for YouTube in 2006.
Tuesday's settlement was announced 11 months after U.S.
District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan rejected Viacom's
damages claims over YouTube's alleged posting of clips from "The
Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "South Park," "SpongeBob
SquarePants" and other programs that viewers had uploaded.
Stanton concluded that YouTube didn't have to constantly
scour its website for infringing videos, so long as it removed
such videos after receiving demands from copyright owners.
Viacom had been appealing that decision to the 2nd U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and oral argument had been
scheduled for March 24.
"Content providers and service providers are finding it more
constructive to work together rather than litigate," said June
Besek, a Columbia Law School lecturer and intellectual property
specialist. "Content providers need a Google to filter material,
and Google needs content to attract people to its websites."
In April 2012, Google announced a licensing agreement with
Paramount to bring nearly 500 movie titles such as "The
Godfather" trilogy and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to YouTube and
Google Play in the United States and Canada.
GARTH BROOKS, STING, FACEBOOK, YAHOO
The case tested the reach of the federal Digital Millennium
Copyright Act, a 1998 law that made it illegal to produce
technology to circumvent anti-piracy measures, but limited
liability of online service providers for copyright infringement
In his April 2013 ruling, Stanton had concluded that Google
and YouTube were protected from Viacom's copyright claims by
"safe harbor" provisions in the law.
The judge rejected what he called Viacom's "ingenious" yet
"extravagant" argument that YouTube should monitor the content
of videos being uploaded at a rate of more than 24 hours of
viewing time per minute.
He also said YouTube did not interact so closely with people
uploading content that it could be said to have engaged in
Stanton had in 2010 also ruled for YouTube. The 2nd Circuit
revived Viacom's case in April 2012, saying a reasonable jury
could find that YouTube was aware of specific infringements.
Supporters of Viacom during the battle have included the
Associated Press, Gannett Co, the Motion Picture
Association of America, the National Football League, the Screen
Actors Guild, Garth Brooks, the Eagles and Sting.
Google and YouTube won backing from eBay Inc,
Facebook Inc, Tumblr Inc, Yahoo Inc, Consumers
Union, Human Rights Watch and others.
The case is Viacom International Inc et al v. YouTube Inc et
al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-1720.