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Viacom: Google a Pirate’s Den

4/19/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Have Google executives
been exposed as high-tech bandits
plotting to pilfer Viacom’s
corporate jewels?

Viacom last week highlighted
excerpts from newly released
documents in its copyright-infringement
battle with Google
and YouTube, including a May
2006 presentation by a Google
executive that said, “YouTube’s
business model is completely
sustained by pirated content.”

In a separate June 2006 presentation,
forwarded to Google
CEO Eric Schmidt and company
founders Sergey Brin and Larry
Page, two executives suggested
that the company could “coax
or force access to viral premium
content.”

Google could “[t]hreaten a
change in copyright policy as
part of a PR campaign complaining
about harm to users’ interests
through content owner foot-dragging
— use threat to get standard
deal sign-up,” according to the
presentation.

In a statement, Google claimed
the statements “are taken out of
context” and predate the Internet
company’s $1.65 billion acquisition
of YouTube in October
2006.

“It’s revealing that Viacom is
trying to litigate this case in the
press,” Google said.

But according to Viacom, the
latest documents represent smoking
guns that prove Google and
YouTube knowingly stole the media
giant’s TV content.

“Taken together, these exhibits
make clear one of our core claims
in the case: that Google made a
deliberate, calculated business
decision not only to profit from
copyright infringement, but also
to use the threat of copyright infringement
to try to coerce rights
owners like Viacom into licensing
their content on Google’s terms,”
Stanley Pierre-Louis, Viacom’s
vice president and associate
general counsel for intellectual
property and content protection,
wrote in a statement.
The documents were among
nine unsealed in the case April
15, after the U.S. District Court for
the Southern District of New York
allowed the release of hundreds of
pages of documents in March (see
“ ‘Stolen Videos’ Feud,” March 22,
page 36).

Viacom has charged YouTube
with “massive intentional copyright
infringement of Viacom’s
entertainment properties” and
is seeking at least $1 billion in
damages.

Previously, Google and You-
Tube have claimed protection
under the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act, which grants online
service providers immunity
from copyright liability if they remove
unauthorized content after
they receive a “takedown” notice
from the copyright holder.

In addit ion, according to
Google, Viacom “continuously and
secretly uploaded its content to
YouTube” and deliberately made it
look stolen or leaked, which made
it especially difficult to determine
which videos were unauthorized.
But that was a problem “You-
Tube and Google created, not Viacom,”
according to Pierre-Louis.
“We asked for the ability to identify
to YouTube which clips were
promotional, but YouTube and
Google did nothing because they
didn’t want to know. In the law,
this is called ‘willful blindness.’ ”

Viacom argues that Google’s
claim of protection under the
DMCA is disingenuous.

“YouTube and Google made a
calculated business decision to
use other people’s copyrighted
content as their start-up capital,”
Pierre-Louis said.

Pierre-Louis also pointed out
that before Google acquired You-
Tube, Google “made reasonable
efforts” to keep infringing material
off its own video site.

“Indeed, Google persisted in
these copyright-respectful practices
even as YouTube gained
ground through its illegal acts;
and Google did so because its
employees knew full well that the
YouTube approach was both illegal
and wrong,” he wrote.

STRATEGY SESSIONS
Google executive presentations from 2006, released last week in
Viacom’s lawsuit against YouTube, included the following statements.
Google said the remarks are “out of context” because they predate its
acquisition of YouTube:

■ “YouTube’s business model is completely sustained by pirated content.”

■ “YouTube’s content is all free, and much of it is highly sought after pirated clips.”

■ “ [W]e should beat YouTube by improving features and user experience, not being a ‘rogue enabler’ of
content theft.”

■ “ We may be able to coax or force access to viral premium content … Threaten a change in copyright
policy — use threat to get standard deal sign-up.”
SOURCE: Court documents

September