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Copyright Violations Claimed by Viacom Against YouTube

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MSN Money reports just days after Google owned YouTube announced that media companies will have no choice but to work with online sites such as theirs, Viacom has responded with a $1 billion lawsuit, alleging that the video-sharing site has shown 160,000 of its videos without permission.

Previously, after talks about a licensing deal failed, YouTube said it would remove 100,000 Viacom clips, including a number from Comedy Central shows.  Viacom and other big media players say that the problem with YouTube is that it will pull copyright clips only after its been asked to do so, putting the burden of policing content on the copyright holders and allowing users to re-post illegal copies as soon as they are removed.

Google and YouTube rely on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in 1998, which criminalizes technology whose primary purpose is to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works – – even where there is no actual infringement.

If a site removes content "expeditiously" when it receives notice from the copyright holder, then the site has a so-called safe harbor from lawsuits.

A problem is that the act, written during an earlier, pre-Napster Internet era, was not designed for infringement-based business models, and is open to judicial interpretation.  In the meantime, media companies have been investing in their own Web video capabilities in an attempt to drive video traffic to their own sites.

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