Google comes up a winner in ugly battle with Viacom

It's tough to feel sorry for Google, but even the biggest critics of the giant search engine company have to admit it's been suffering through some tough times, including a multi-state investigation into its information gathering techniques and a bevy of legal actions in Europe covering privacy infringement.

The company has to be feeling a little better, then, since Federal Court Judge Louis Stanton tossed a $1 billion Viacom claim that Google-owned YouTube had infringed on copyrights by allowing its content, including such cable fare as Comedy Central, to be uploaded onto its site. Judge Stanton, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, agreed that Google knew that copyrighted material had been uploaded to its site but did not know which clips had permission and which did not. Viacom filed suit in 2007 claiming copyright infringement after videos it owned were uploaded to the site.

The case, which got really nasty as each side revealed disparaging information about the other, has greater implications for Internet sites that build viewership with uploaded content. According to the judge, companies are shielded from copyright claims by "safe harbor" provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Not surprisingly, Viacom plans to appeal the decision continuing to maintain that "YouTube and Google stole hundreds of thousands of video clips from artists and content creators... building a substantial business that was sold for billions of dollars," according to a blog post by general counsel Michael Fricklas.

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