NEW YORK (AP) - MTV owner Viacom Inc. sued the popular
video-sharing site YouTube and its corporate parent, Google Inc.,
on Tuesday, seeking more than $1 billion in damages on claims of
widespread copyright infringement.
Viacom claims that YouTube has displayed more than 160,000
unauthorized video clips from its cable networks, which also
include Comedy Central, VH1 and Nickelodeon.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, marks a
sharp escalation of long-simmering tensions between Viacom and
YouTube and represents the biggest confrontation to date between a
major media company and the hugely popular video-sharing site,
which Google bought in November for $1.76 billion.
YouTube's soaring popularity has been a cause of fascination but
also fear among the owners of traditional media outlets, who worry
that YouTube's displaying of clips from their programs - without
compensation - will lure away viewers and ad dollars from cable and
Viacom is especially at risk because much of its programming is
aimed at younger audiences who also are heavy Internet users.
Last month Viacom demanded that YouTube remove more than 100,000
unauthorized clips after several months of talks between the
companies broke down.
YouTube said at the time that it would comply with the request
and said it cooperates with all copyright holders to remove
programming as soon as they're notified.
In a statement, Viacom lashed out at YouTube's business
practices, saying it 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."
Viacom said YouTube's 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
Viacom said YouTube has avoided taking the initiative to curtail
copyright infringement on its site, instead shifting the burden and
costs of monitoring the video-sharing site for unauthorized clips
onto the "victims of its infringement."
A representative for Google didn't immediately respond to a
request for comment.
Other media companies have also clashed with YouTube over
copyrights, but some, including CBS Corp. and General Electric
Co.'s NBC Universal, have reached deals with the video-sharing site
to license their material. CBS Corp. used to be part of Viacom but
has since split off into a separate company.
Universal Music Group, a unit of France's Vivendi SA, had
threatened to sue YouTube, saying it was a hub for pirated music
videos, but later reached a licensing deal with the company.
In addition to damages, Viacom is also seeking an injunction
prohibiting Google and YouTube from using its clips.