Thursday 25 March 2010

Viacom v Google - the gloves are off

Things have been a bit quiet in the Google vs Viacom legal spat, the $1 billion lawsuit which accuses Google of profiting from thousands of unauthorized copyrighted clips owned by Viasom that once appeared on YouTube. But the case documents have now been unsealed and the gloves are definitely off, with Google accusing Viacom’s lawyers of editing emails and Viacom claiming that Google and YouTube had developed "serial amnesia" during depositions and also for failing "to preserve and produce" key documents.

It seems that in Viacom's summary judgment motion filed last week, the company quoted Steve Chen, one of YouTube's co-founders, in an e-mail saying "Concentrate all our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil." Now you could see why Viacom, as a content owner, might not like this. But it now seems what the email actually said was this: "If I were running the show, I'd say, we concentrate all of our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil, i.e., scraping MySpace." Now that might be a blow for MySpace owners News Corp, but it hardly has the same meaning as the edited version presented by Viacom. On the other hand ...... Viacom claims that it has not received emails that should have been disclosed saying that Google hasn’t acted in good faith by failing to turn over documents. Viacom's lawyers said that Google handed over only 19 records from June 2006, the month that Google began evaluating a YouTube acquisition. When Google boss Eric Schmidt was asked why a big acquisition like YouTube didn't generate more paperwork he answered that "(It) has been my practice for 30 years to not retain my e-mails unless asked specifically” adding "It was my practice to delete or otherwise cause the e-mails that I had read to go away as quickly as possible." YouTube boss and founder Chad Hurley told Viacom lawyers that he "lost" his e-mails for the period because of a computer crash. Viacom, however, retrieved many of Hurley's e-mails from the personal computer of Jawed Karim, another one of YouTube's three co-founders. When Hurley was presented with copies of those e-mails Viacom claims that the YouTube CEO "developed serial amnesia."

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