RealTime IT News

Viacom v. Google Turns to Comedy

Typically, deposed witnesses must swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But what about "truthiness"?

The issue could come up, now that Google announced it intends to depose Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's Colbert Report, as it defends itself against a billion dollar copyright lawsuit from Viacom.

Colbert is perhaps best known for his adherence to truthiness in his satirical views on politics and American culture. He joins John Stewart, host of Comedy Central's other hit program The Daily Show, on a list otherwise loaded with executives, company founders and lawyers.

Google's list of witnesses, filed in a U.S. District in New York, includes Viacom majority owner Sumner Redstone, Viacom CEO Phillipe Dauman, Viacom General Counsel Michael Fricklas and others.

Viacom's list includes Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, YouTube founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and 23 others.

Colbert and Stewart likely join the list of executives due to their one-time popularity on Google's video-sharing site YouTube, which Viacom alleges Google uses to "promote and profit from massive copyright infringement of television programs and feature films on an unprecedented scale," as a copy of the filing obtained by internetnews.com reads.

A Google spokesperson told internetnews.com the filing is in practicality a negotiation document and that many of those named will not end up providing depositions. Viacom declined to comment.

Viacom and Google are in court to decide which of the two companies should bear the cost of keeping Viacom's copyrighted content off YouTube. Viacom seeks $1 billion in damages.

To defend itself, Google will rely on section 5.12 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Google will argue the DMCA protects Internet companies like YouTube from being held liable for the copyright infringement of its users and that the law makes viable a wide range of Web 2.0 businesses that would be overburdened by the cost of policing their users.

Viacom, however, believes that, although the DMCA provides some Internet companies "safe harbor," companies that profit from copyright infringement and could do something to stop it are not guaranteed protection by the law. It argues that if Google's interpretation of the DMCA were made law, copyright-holding content creators would lose incentive to work.

Third-party depositions will begin Nov. 7. Viacom and Google depositions start March 7, 2008.