Google Fires Back at Viacom's Lawsuit Against YouTube

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In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan Friday, Google said YouTube "goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works[and the lawsuit] threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information," on the Internet, according to the Associated Press.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company asserts that YouTube complies with 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which limits the "liability of service providers[They] must adopt and reasonably implement a policy of terminating in appropriate circumstances the accounts of subscribers who are repeat infringers," according to the DMCA.

YouTube has cut deals with other media giants such as CBS, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group that allows the companies' videos and music clips to be uploaded with certain restrictions. Those deals were signed before Google acquired the wildly popular site.

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In response to Viacom's March 2007 initial copyright infringement lawsuit, San Bruno, Calif.-based YouTube released last October a beta version of the YouTube Video Identification tool that is intended to monitor video clips posted on its site to guard against copyright infringement.

"Video Identification is the next step in a long list of content policies and tools that we have provided copyright owners so that they can more easily identify their content and manage how it is made available on YouTube," wrote YouTube product manager David King in a blog post.

According to King. YouTube's video identification includes a repeat-infringer policy that terminates accounts of repeat infringers based on DMCA notices.

YouTube also provides content owners with an electronic notification and takedown tool to help them more easily identify their material and notify YuoTube to take it down with the click of a mouse.

The company also publishes copyright tips for users.

However, critics say the tool is inefficient and places the onus on content owners to prove that their content has been infringed upon.

"Although YouTube touts the availability of purported copyright protection tools on its site, at best these tools help copyright owners find a portion of the infringing files, and, as to that portion, only after the files have been uploaded," Viacom said.

Viacom said it has identified more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of its copyrighted programming, "that had been viewed an astounding 1.5 billion times."

The New York-based media behemoth said YouTube has posted videos of its popular works including "RenStimpy," "SpongeBob SquarePants," "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "The Colbert Report," "South Park," "MTV Unplugged," "An Inconvenient Truth," "Mean Girls," and others.

Two years before the latest Viacom lawsuit, some industry watchers saw the writing on the wall. In a 2006 blog, three Forrester research analysts posted the entry, "YouTube is Goin' Down," which compared YouTube to Napster.

"Mark my words, YouTube will get sued. And it will lose. The tools it is talking about, that identify and remove copyrighted content, will have to be rushed into practice it only takes one unhappy media company to force the company's hand. And the cases on this point, from Napster to Grokster at the Supreme Court, are clear."