Viacom opens $1bn legal battle against Google and YouTube

Viacom is suing Google and its content sharing site YouTube for over $1bn (£517m), claiming the search engine firm has committed 'massive copyright infringement'.

In a statement, Viacom claims that just under 160,000 unauthorised clips of Viacom programmes, including 'The Daily Show' and 'South Park', have been made available for free through YouTube and have been viewed around 1.5bn times in total.

The statement claims that YouTube's business model "is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content", which it adds "is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws."

Viacom also criticises YouTube for failing to take "proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site," leaving Viacom and the programmes' creative staff out of pocket.

"After a great deal of unproductive negotiation, and remedial efforts by ourselves and other copyright holders, YouTube continues in its unlawful business model. Therefore, we must turn to the courts to prevent Google and YouTube from continuing to steal value from artists and to obtain compensation for the significant damage they have caused," the media company said.

The legal action comes weeks after Viacom ordered YouTube to remove around 100,000 video streams from the site, which YouTube said at the time it would comply with. Viacom also put in a similar demand last year.

Viacom brands include MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Comedy Central, CMT: Country Music Television, Spike TV and Paramount Comedy.

Earlier this month, YouTube struck a deal with the BBC to use some of its content on its site.

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