×

Why the Viacom-YouTube Case Wasn’t a Giant Waste of Time

It would be tempting to dismiss Viacom’s seven-year litigation against Google and YouTube — alleging a massive conspiracy to illicitly make money from the media company’s content — as all for naught.

The conglom originally demanded more than $1 billion back in 2007, clearly designed as an attention-grabbing figure. But in the end, YouTube ended up paying Viacom nothing as part of the settlement of the dispute, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

Meanwhile, the federal judge in the case sided with YouTube’s defense: that it wasn’t liable for copyright infringement because it had implemented takedown measures as specified under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Under the DMCA’s “safe harbor” provision, Internet sites are immune from infringement claims if they quickly remove infringing content after they’re notified by a copyright owner.

SEE ALSO: Google and Viacom Settle Copyright-Infringement Lawsuit over YouTube

And, according to Google, the whole case wasn’t really about copyright at all. The Internet giant argued in court filings that the fight was really a business dispute that erupted after Viacom’s failed $800 million offer in 2006 to acquire the video-sharing site. Viacom had even proposed teaming up with Google to buy YouTube, before Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion, according to Google filings.

So all that happened out of this spat was that lawyers on both sides walked away with hundreds of billable hours, right?

But here’s what Viacom’s lawsuit actually did: It spurred YouTube to accelerate the development of tools to detect — and pull down — copyrighted material, in an automated way. Given that YouTube users upload 100 hours of video every minute, Viacom (and others) complained that it was not feasible to monitor that volume manually and send out DMCA takedown requests one at a time.

YouTube claimed that even before Viacom sued, it was putting together the pieces of what became the Content ID system for automatically flagging copyrighted video. But it was only during the Viacom court proceedings that YouTube announced it would filter content for all copyright holders, not just its business partners.

No doubt, YouTube would have evolved its practices to a more content-owner-friendly system — eventually. But the lawsuit prompted it to move more quickly than it would have otherwise, and also served notice to other user-generated content sites that Viacom was prepared to take aggressive legal action.

Media companies still have issues with Google and specifically continue to harp on the company’s search-engine results, which industry players argue should better strip out links to pirate sites. But with YouTube, Viacom has now achieved a working relationship — one that transpired faster because of the threat to collect $1 billion in damages.

More Digital

  • ABC News Live - David Hatcher

    ABC News Live Taps BuzzFeed's David Hatcher to Oversee Morning News Programming

    ABC News has recruited veteran TV producer David Hatcher as executive producer to oversee the morning news programming block for the ABC News Live streaming network. Hatcher most recently spent a year at BuzzFeed, where he was executive producer of morning news show “AM2DM” on Twitter. For ABC News Live, Hatcher will be responsible for [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Launches Top 10 Daily Rankings of Most Popular Titles by Country

    Netflix is taking top 10 lists of its most popular streaming content to members across the globe. Starting Monday (Feb. 24), Netflix said, it is rolling out a new row in its interface that will show the overall top 10 titles in a subscriber’s country, as well as the top 10 most popular series and [...]

  • Parasite

    'Parasite' Will Stream Exclusively on Hulu in U.S.

    Hulu has exclusive U.S. streaming rights to “Parasite,” the film that made history as the first foreign-language film to win best picture at this year’s Oscars. Under a deal with indie studio Neon, “Parasite” will be available on Hulu beginning Wednesday, April 8, the Disney-controlled streamer announced. The movie from filmmaker Bong Joon Ho won [...]

  • media stocks - wall-street

    Disney, Amazon, ViacomCBS Shares Hit as Stock Market Tumbles Amid Coronavirus Fears

    Fears of the Coronavirus spreading across the world sent major stock indices tumbling on Monday morning. Shares of Disney and Amazon were down 4% for the day as reports that the deadly virus has hit South Korea and Italy spooked investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,000 points, or 3.5%, at [...]

  • Disney-Plus-Logo

    Disney Plus Launches Plan Discounts in U.K., Europe Ahead of March Debut

    Disney, looking to lock in Disney Plus customers in the U.K. and European markets prior to its official launch next month, is offering 14%-17% discounts on the streaming service — if users sign up for a one-year plan. Leading up to the March 24 debut of Disney Plus in the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, [...]

  • Alex Dundas - Whistle

    Whistle Hires Ex-ITV Exec Alex Dundas as Head of Unscripted Originals (EXCLUSIVE)

    Digital-media company Whistle recruited Alex Dundas, most recently with ITV Entertainment, as executive VP and head of unscripted premium originals. Based in Whistle’s L.A. office, Dundas will oversee development and packaging of new unscripted shows from Whistle and also will support sales to TV network and streaming partners. He reports to Dominic Ianno, EVP of [...]

  • Aaron Pedersen (as Jay) & Jada

    Screen Australia Leads Call for Evolution of Industry Funding

    Screen Australia, the country’s federal support body, says the screen entertainment industry needs to come up with new business models in response to changes in audience behavior and the disruptive impact on content financing that has come from streaming. Public support bodies must change their relationships with the industry too, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content