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Google and Viacom Settle Copyright-Infringement Lawsuit over YouTube

Google and Viacom announced the resolution of the media conglom’s copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in 2007, which had sought more than $1 billion in damages.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Google is not paying Viacom any money under the deal, according to sources familiar with the settlement.

The companies, in a joint statement about the settlement Tuesday, said: “Google and Viacom today jointly announced the resolution of the Viacom vs. YouTube copyright litigation. This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together.”

Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion in 2007, shortly after Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion a year earlier. Even as the suit dragged on, the companies since then have reached biz agreements; for example, Viacom participates in the YouTube Content ID program to scan for copyrighted material uploaded to the service. Paramount also in 2012 licensed films to YouTube available for rent.

Viacom alleged that the video service had engaged in “massive intentional copyright infringement of Viacom’s entertainment properties.” According to Viacom, nearly 160,000 clips of Viacom programming — including clips from shows like “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “South Park” — were available on YouTube without permission, and that those clips had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

Google and YouTube fought the suit, and won several victories in federal court. In rulings in 2010 and 2013, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton of the Southern District of New York said the website was not liable for copyright infringement because it was protected by the “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That “safe harbor” measure grants immunity to Internet sites if they quickly remove infringing content after they’re notified by a copyright owner.

In court documents, Viacom argued that YouTube essentially built its business on infringing videos, and the media company produced e-mails in which some of the site’s founders discuss the prevalence of copyrighted videos uploaded by users and their propensity to generate more traffic.

However, YouTube contended in court briefings that it could not take down specific clips without a notice because it did not know whether they had been authorized. YouTube pointed to evidence that Paramount deliberately “roughed up” clips from some of its projects to make it appear that they were stolen.

Ted Johnson contributed to this report.

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