RealTime IT News

Google Downplays Video Lawsuits

Could YouTube's outlaw nature be coming back to bite Google?

A month after the Internet giant acquired the top video-sharing site for $1.65 billion, lawsuits are starting to multiply.

The latest court case, a $192,465 legal challenge over a French documentary posted to YouTube, was dismissed by Google as "a small lawsuit over a single video that appeared briefly," a spokesperson told internetnews.com.

The new details emerged a day after Google informed the Securities and Exchange Commission it was being sued for copyright infringement.

Responding to the suit, Google spokesperson Ricardo Reyes said while YouTube takes various measures to ensure infringement complaints are quickly addressed, he said "YouTube enjoys the same safe harbor that Google and many other hosting providers do."

Both Google and YouTube "have a strong policy of taking things down very quickly when requested," according to the spokesperson.

Did Google foresee such legal entanglements upon its acquisition of YouTube? The chances are likely, said Joe Wilcox, senior analyst for JupiterKagan Research. Just prior to the announcement of the stock purchase, both Google and YouTube announced licensing deals with a number of content providers.

At a conference on Web 2.0 issues, Google CEO Eric Schmidt denied that the company had created a legal slush fund to handle potential lawsuits. Instead, he added, it is hard at work negotiating with content companies in order to insulate both Google and YouTube.

For all their popularity, video-sharing has created a gray area with content providers and is helping to spark internal debates about the trade-offs between promoting television shows and being damaged by copyright infringement.

Google is fairly susceptible to such lawsuits, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "I think they felt they could defend against them," he said.

As often the case, YouTube wasn't on the legal radar until purchased by Google. Now it's a case of going after the deep pockets, according to the analyst.

Wilcox agreed. The YouTube deal "may have flushed out lawsuits," he said.