Copyright litigation between Google’s Youtube, global video-sharing platform and Viacom, an American international entertainment company which owns MTV Networks, cable channels like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and the famous Paramount film studios, has reached an out of court settlement this week.
Viacom, in 2007, had accused Youtube of infringing its copyrights by illegally uploading/posting nearly 79,000 copyrighted videos from popular shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants”, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and others without the consent of the copyright holder, Viacom. Further, it claimed $1 billion in damages as these uploads were viewed several times from which YouTube benefited financially by collecting revenue from advertisements placed within the videos resulting in strong copyright infringement.
The case was heard three times in three years. The case was first dismissed by New York District Court in 2010, when Viacom appealed against the decision to the US Court of Appeals. The appellate court, despite concurring with the findings of the Learned District Judge, referred the case back to the District court for further consideration on the argument that the email exchanges between the executives at companies indicates YouTube’s awareness of the infringing activity. The Learned District judge nevertheless dismissed this argument as being “extravagant” and opined that, going by the activities on YouTube, more than 24 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube each minute hence it is impossible to have knowledge of all the content being uploaded. Viacom’s next step would have been to appeal this decision of the District Court, but both the companies this week jointly announced the settlement, drawing curtains on their 7-year-copyright-litigation. Reports suggest that the settlement was more of an understanding than a financial one.
Even though this decision, on the face of it, seems like a victory of YouTube over Viacom, it should be noted that while deciding, the courts considered various other developments during the pendency of the litigation. Google and YouTube, after each hearing, have taken various steps to comply with the US Copyright Law.
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