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Google strikes back at Viacom

Company claims lawsuit is bad for Web

Google is striking back at Viacom, claming in its first legal filing in the case that the media conglom’s $1 billion-plus lawsuit will fundamentally change the nature of the Net.

“By seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for Internet communications,” the search giant’s legal counsel wrote, “Viacom’s complaint threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment and political and artistic expression.”

Assertion came late Monday in Google’s answer to Viacom’s complaint, its first legal response to the suit filed in March.

As expected, document makes clear that Google is relying on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” provision, which says that Web sites are required to take down copyrighted content only after notified by the owner.

“The DMCA is very clear in setting out a level of protection for platforms such as YouTube, and we have been consistent in meeting or exceeding its requirements,” said Google product counsel Mia Garlick.

But Viacom maintained its stance that Google does not have protection under the safe harbor provision of the DMCA becuase it knows about copyrighted material illegally posted on YouTube.

“It is simply not credible that a company whose mission is to organize the world’s information claims that it can’t find what’s on YouTube,” a rep said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Google continues to distinguish itself by failing to join the majority of major digital companies that have affirmatively embraced the legal rights of copyright holders.”

Next step in the suit comes July 27, when Google and Viacom counsel are scheduled to meet with Judge Louis Stanton in U.S. District Court in New York City to plan the case schedule.

But while the legal proceedings move slowly, Google is moving ahead with developments that alter its relationship with Hollywood. Company is in the process of rolling out a product called Claim Your Content that allows companies like Viacom to register their copyrighted videos so that YouTube can prevent users from uploading them.

If successful, CYC may ameliorate some of Viacom’s stated concerns about piracy.

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