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YouTube-Viacom trial turns comic

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert on witness list

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As if its court battle with Viacom wasn't funny enough, YouTube has now asked for testimony from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert - the faux newsmen whose exploits on Viacom's Comedy Central cable TV channel once made for prime viewing material on the video-sharing site.

According to a filing with the New York federal court where YouTube is fighting a $1bn copyright infringement suit from media giant Viacom, the Google-owned video sharer has requested depositions from 32 people, and numbers three and four on the list are Stewart and Colbert. That puts them a few spots below Viacom chief executive officer Philippe Dauman, who's first, and a few spots above executive chairman and American icon Sumner Redstone, who's number eight.

The filing makes it clear that YouTube "intends" to depose those on the list, but that the list "may be modified as the case progresses". When we asked Google about its specific plans for Stewart and Colbert, the company didn't immediately respond, but let's hope the two Comedy Central mavens remain in the mix. They're much funnier than Sumner Redstone.

Clips from Stewart's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report were among the most popular videos on YouTube when Viacom requested their removal last fall, pointing its proverbial finger at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). A few months later, after the two companies failed to negotiate some sort of online distribution agreement, Comedy Central's parent company slapped its suit on YouTube, claiming that the video-sharer "has harnessed technology to willfully infringe copyrights on a huge scale, depriving writers, composers and performers of the rewards they are owed".

Meanwhile, in conversations with The Reg, Google has said it's in full compliance with the DMCA, insisting that it always removes copyright material when asked to do so by the content owner. And late last month, a company lawyer told the court it would introduce an "FBI-quality" video-fingerprinting system as early as September, which would allow it to automatically identity copyrighted material.

Judging from their on-air attitudes and their conversations with the press, it would seem that Stewart and Colbert side with Google, but you never can tell with those two. Colbert's whole shtick involves pretending to be someone he's not. We think. ®

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