Viacom Says YouTube Ignored Copyrights

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Pointing to internal YouTube e-mail messages, Viacom said in a court filing that the video site’s founders turned a blind eye when users uploaded copyrighted clips so they could amass a big audience and sell the company quickly.

The charge was one of many made by Viacom in filings unsealed last week in its three-year-old copyright lawsuit against YouTube and Google, which bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion.

Google fired back, saying Viacom was distorting the record by taking passages from e-mail messages out of context. It also said Viacom employees and agents “continuously and secretly” uploaded clips from the company’s television shows and movies to YouTube for promotional purposes, even as they were complaining about copyright violations.

“They are both tearing each other up, and both are scoring points,” said Eric Goldman, director of the High-Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

The lawsuit accused YouTube of profiting from thousands of clips from Viacom movies and shows that were uploaded to the site without permission.

It was filed at the height of tensions between Google and media companies over copyrights — tensions that have since eased substantially. YouTube, which is by far the Web’s largest video site, has set up an automated system to detect infringing videos and signed revenue-sharing agreements with more than a thousand media companies.

But more broadly, media companies remain wary of losing control as more of their products become digital, making them easier to copy.

As part of their motions for summary judgment in the case, both sides released hundreds of pages of documents and exhibits, including internal documents obtained through the discovery process.