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France Targets Google Video

Can Google , YouTube and other video-sharing sites retain their free-wheeling community nature while fending off lawsuits from angry copyright holders? That's the question raised by the latest legal challenge out of Europe.

Documentary producer Flach Film charged in a local Paris court that Google Video France violated that country's copyright laws by allowing "The World According to Bush" to be downloaded for free more than 43,000 times.

"Flach Film requests the court to sentence Google to provide compensation for the loss resulting from these illegal acts," according to a statement.

Responding to the complaint filed on Thanksgiving, Google said it quickly removed the video once notified. "The uploading of videos by users who do not have the rights to do so is contrary to the terms and conditions of Google Video," according to a spokeswoman.

The complaint comes on the heels of legal storm clouds looming over the much-ballyhooed video-sharing landscape.

Barely before the ink was dry on its October $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube, lawsuits were being filed.

Earlier this month, Google told the Security and Exchange Commission it was being sued for copyright infringement. That legal complaint over a French documentary posted on YouTube was dismissed as "a small lawsuit over a single video that appeared briefly," a spokesman told internetnews.com at the time.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has denied his company created a legal slush fund to fight legal problems arising from the YouTube acquisition.

However, Google lawyers likely were aware video could present greater copyright challenges, Todd Chanko, a JupiterKagan analyst said.

YouTube's previous free-wheeling atmosphere where copyrighted material was often exchanged cannot continue with the heightened attention from copyright-holders and consumers.

As if to underline the concern, Universal Music Group recently sued MySpace, charging the social-networking site with "rampant copyright infringement."

Such lawsuits may instead be "negotiations in public" by companies, David Card, a JupiterKagan analyst, suggested. If wiser heads prevail, there could be a middle-ground found, he said.

Otherwise, the mystique fostered by sites such as YouTube and other community-driven properties would be hurt, Card warned.