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YouTube accuses Viacom of secretly uploading videos

$1bn legal row gets touchy-feely

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Google has accused Viacom of secretly uploading videos to YouTube in an effort to support its copyright infringement claims against Mountain View.

In March 2007 the US media giant filed a $1bn lawsuit against Google, alleging the video-sharing site was responsible for Viacom-owned clips posted to YouTube.

Now, in the latest soap opera-like twist, YouTube chief counsel Zahavah Levine has claimed that Viacom hired firms to upload its videos to the Google-owned site to help bolster its copyright violation allegations.

"For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site," wrote Levine in a scathing blog post that cites the unsealing of related court documents.

"It deliberately 'roughed up' the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses.

"And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users," she claimed.

Levine argued that the safe harbour exemptions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects YouTube from copyright liability, because - where a user has uploaded a video clip unlawfully - it complies with take notices dished out by rights holders.

In the same missive she said that Viacom was suffering from a serious dose of sour grapes, by claiming the media outfit had tried to buy YouTube, which was acquired by Google in 2006 for $1.65bn.

Viacom hit back with a terse statement on its own website saying that the court documents, published yesterday, supported the company's allegations against YouTube.

"The motion, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, provides the evidence and legal basis for Viacom's arguments that YouTube intentionally operated as a haven for massive copyright infringement," it said.

The case continues. ®

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