YouTube's San Bruno, Calif. headquarters

Peter Kafka

YouTube’s San Bruno, Calif. headquarters

Media


Viacom, which has been suing Google over alleged copyright violations at its YouTube unit since 2007, has settled out of court, the two companies announced today.

Google and Viacom didn’t provide details, but did offer this statement: “Google and Viacom today jointly announced the resolution of the Viacom vs. YouTube copyright litigation. This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together.”

At one point Viacom, the cable powerhouse that owns networks such as MTV and Comedy Central, had been seeking $1 billion in damages from Google. But no money traded hands in the settlement, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Google had won a significant victory against Viacom in 2010, when U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled largely in the company’s favor. Viacom appealed that decision, but a federal appeals court kicked the case back down to Stanton again, who repeated his ruling in 2013. Viacom appealed that ruling, and the two companies were scheduled to appear in court again next Monday.

Seven years ago, the copyright lawsuit looked like it would have major implications for the way the Web worked. But by now the suit had become an asterisk, because in many ways the core issues have been settled by both the courts and the market.

In very broad strokes, the practical consensus is that digital services like YouTube — and Twitter, and Facebook, and everyone else that distributes lots of content uploaded by its users — are not responsible for copyright violations if they don’t explicitly encourage them, and if they let copyright holders take down stuff they don’t want up there.

Like many other media companies, Viacom had originally objected to the fact that lots of its content appeared on YouTube without its permission. But Google, which acquired YouTube in 2006, has more or less made peace with most big content companies, in part via a “ContentID” system that allows copyright owners to track their stuff on the world’s largest video site. The system also gives content owners the ability to demand “takedowns” of their stuff — or the option to run ads against it.

Viacom itself has been working with YouTube’s ContentID system for some time. Two years ago, Viacom’s Paramount film studio struck a deal to rent movies via YouTube.

And, if you’re keeping track of these things, note that Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman’s son, Philippe Dauman Jr., has worked for Google since 2007 — the same year Viacom sued Google. Dauman Jr.’s LinkedIn profile says he’s now working on the “Google Wallet” program.

Update: Twitter is pretty great.




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