It's been brewing for months, and now Reuters reports that the kettle has officially blown: Yesterday, media juggernaut Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Google Inc. and its recently-acquired YouTube over unauthorized use of Viacom's copyrighted materials. According to Reuters, the suit accuses both defendants of "'massive intentional copyright infringement' of Viacom's entertainment assets" and seeks an injunction against further violations, claiming that nearly 160,000 unauthorized clips of its programming have been uploaded onto YouTube and viewed more than 1.5 billion times.
The suit marks the final step in Viacom's quest to push YouTube out of the video distribution game. The media conglomerate, which owns MTV, Comedy Central, BET, and VH1, to name a few, has taken aggressive steps to eliminate its content from the user-generated site, first demanding that YouTube remove 100,000 Viacom-owned clips in February, then buying up potential competitors and creating independent user-generated sites for its own channels. Meanwhile, other broadcasters are realizing the need to take sides, with some cutting deals with YouTube as others continue negotiations with the site, unsure of whether to exploit its massive traffic and promotional opportunities or issue injunctions to protect their copyrighted material. As talks between Google and networks like CBS and NBC Universal keep seesawing between friendly diplomacy and calling in the lawyers, the outcome of the Viacom suit could set the tone for the entertainment industry's dealings with the web site, and possibly define YouTube's role in the future of video distribution. Let the suing begin!