Spat between Viacom and Google ‘mere politics’ says observer


A recent lawsuit filed by Viacom Inc. alleging copyright infringement against Google Inc. is more about politics than about any legal violations, says one Canadian observer.

The lawsuit is seeking US$1 billion in damages around what it claims are unauthorized Viacom videos uploaded on YouTube, a video-sharing site that Mountain View, Calif.-based Google acquired last year.

Viacom is merely making a political statement that will cause the public to demonize Google, according to Russell McOrmond, policy coordinator at the Canadian Association for Open Source (CLUE).

“In general, [Viacom is] saying that this big rich company is making money doing something, and it’s using some our material,” says McOrmond. “The lawsuit has no merit. But for public relations reasons, Google will be forced to settle in some way.”

Toronto-based CLUE seeks to create a Canadian information technology environment which promotes collaborative innovation as well as open standards and the rights of consumers.

In a statement released by New York-based Viacom – a global entertainment content company whose brands include MTV and Comedy Central – Google’s business model that’s “based on building traffic and selling advertising off unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws.”

McOrmond says Google has been compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the U.S. that states a hosting site is not liable for copyright violation if the content in question is removed upon receiving a notice from the copyright holder.

“Essentially, Google is already doing everything the law requires. If it’s obeying the law, then what is this really about?” says McOrmond.

Viacom, itself, owns several Web sites with user-generated content, such as Atom Entertainment and iFilm, he says. “Viacom is also making money doing the same thing.”

But besides its allegation that Google is making money from permitting unauthorized material on YouTube, Viacom says the site has not actively prevented users from uploading bootlegged content.

“In fact, YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden – and high cost – of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement,” the statement says.

Google says, in the near future, it will deliver technology that it is currently developing to detect and filter copyright material on the site. Other user-generated content sites, such as MySpace, employ third-party entities to accomplish this task.

According to McOrmond, it’s possible to apply digital signature technology that would detect and prevent a clip from Comedy Central, for instance, from being uploaded to the YouTube site.

“Google offered that service, but part of the question is, should Google be paying for it, or Comedy Central?”

The dispute between Google and Viacom is d

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