German football latest to threaten YouTube

Bayern Munich, the German football club, has joined the raft of copyright owners to threaten YouTube with legal action over pirated material. The move comes as Google, which has agreed to buy the video-sharing site for $1.65 billion, urgently attempts to protect the site from a wave of potentially crippling legal action.

Google told Times Online on Friday that the group has held a series of talks with content owners in an attempt to hammer out deals that would allow the site to carry copyrighted material.

A spokesman said: "Google is always talking to potential partners."

The group is understood to have held meetings with Viacom, Time Warner and others. It is thought Google, which is sitting on a cash pile of some $10 billion, has offered payments of tens of millions of dollars to content owners in an effort to license content for YouTube.

In the past month, CBS, Sony BMG and Vivendi Universal have signed deals with YouTube, giving the site access to parts of their catalogues.

YouTube sealed these deals by offering equity stakes. It is thought that Universal received a 1 per cent share in the group, worth $16 million, according to Google's valuation of YouTube.

Those negotiations are likely to have set a benchmark for Google's current talks. It is though that it has offered one group $100 million for a two-year content deal.

Comments from Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge illustrated the views of many copyright holders when he reacted angrily to privately shot footage of its games being shown on YouTube.

He told the AFP newswire: "When these pictures are found somewhere for free on the net, then it's clear where the spectator goes. These exclusive rights are being massively violated by online platforms - we won't accept that."

As it launches a PR offensive aimed at reassuring content owners that it will respect copyright laws, Google is banking on more content owners agreeing that the site's reach among Internet users offers a platform from which to eventually reap revenues.

Google insiders are citing the example of a spoof video, based on the Shakira single "Hips Don't Lie", a track owned by Sony BMG. The parody, posted on YouTube, received more than 12 million hits, proving far more popular than the original. Google is arguing that it had a positive effect for Sony BMG.

However, YouTube, which downloads more than 100 million videos a day, has admitted that signing deals with content owners is proving a tortuous process.

Chad Hurley, the YouTube co-founder and chief executive, told the Wall Street Journal: "It's such a mess because the [entertainment companies] have all of these valuable assets that are just locked up with so many people who need to sign off on them."

He added: "I don't know what it requires, if the government needs to be involved."

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