NEW YORK (Reuters) - Online video service Veoh said on Thursday it is seeking court protection from any possible copyright-infringement lawsuits from Vivendi's Universal Music Group, the world's largest music label.
Veoh said it has taken legal action to seek a declaration from the U.S. district court in the Southern District of California that it has not infringed on Universal's copyrights.
"Universal Music Group is enthusiastic about using technology to build communities, as evidenced by our deal with YouTube," a Universal Music Group spokesman said in a statement. "But that's not what Veoh is all about. Rather, it's about trying to build a business on the backs of our artists and songwriters without fairly compensating them for the use of their works."
Veoh's action, which seeks a jury trial, is the latest in a series of high-profile disputes between content owners like Universal and online video services like Veoh.
MTV Networks-owner Viacom Inc sued Google Inc and YouTube in May for $1 billion, charging the Internet's top online video site with "massive" copyright infringement in a case that is seen as having broad impact on how business is conducted on the Internet.
Universal has "directly threatened" the company in July and August, making allegations of infringement, Veoh Chief Executive Steve Mitgang, a former Yahoo Inc executive, told Reuters.
But Universal Music has not sued Veoh, and it did not identify any videos uploaded by users without the copyright owners' permission or demand any be taken down, Veoh said in a court filing.
"I still hope to work constructively with Universal Music Group," Mitgang said. "We're not suing them. We're not seeking damages."
Veoh, like other Internet services defending against such legal threats, said it removes content viewed as copyright infringement as soon as it is brought to their attention, which protects them under the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
One new service Veoh is testing called VeohTV that allows viewers to watch Internet videos from other services such as YouTube, NBC.com, ABC.com and others on one screen has piqued the interest and the ire of some content owners.
Watching videos on VeohTV lead viewers away from the Web sites hosting the videos and the advertising that appears on them.
"It (Veoh) is perpetuating a disservice to the entire creative community," Universal said. "So-called 'innovation' that breaks the law and chooses to violate the rights of content creators is not innovation at all."
Mitgang said the company was happy to remove content that infringed on copyrights, but it was impossible to scan "the entire Web of videos" on Veoh.
"We are diligent and we provide you with the tools," Mitgang said, referring to technology that helped content owners identify their material. Veoh has launched and is testing various methods to help media companies identify works that belong to them on Veoh.