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Viacom Takes Google, YouTube Fight to Court

UPDATED: Viacom is suing Google and its video-sharing platform YouTube for "massive intentional copyright infringement" of Viacom's entertainment properties.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks more than $1 billion in damages, as well as an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from further copyright infringement, Viacom said in a statement.

According to a copy of the suit, Viacom contends that Google has intentionally avoided taking "proactive steps" to prevent viewers from accessing almost 160,000 Viacom clips on YouTube. Viacom said YouTube users have viewed illegal copies of Viacom programming over 1.5 billion times.

"YouTube is a significant, for-profit organization that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others' creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google. Therefore, we must turn to the courts," Viacom said.

According to a Google spokesperson, the company has not received the lawsuit. However, the spokesperson added, the company is confident that YouTube has respected the legal rights of copyright holders and believes the courts will agree. Google has 30 days to respond in court.

"It never should have gotten this far," Forrester Research analyst and industry watcher James McQuivey told internetnews.com.

McQuivey said it was in Google's best interest to concede Viacom's protests over copyright infringement weeks ago when it still had a chance to keep the lawyers out of it.

In early February, Viacom demanded YouTube take down 100,000 clips, including content from MTV, Comedy Central and other networks. That move followed what the media company felt was frustrating distribution negotiations.

That would have been the time to sweeten the deal, McQuivey said. Now, it only gets ugly for everyone except for YouTube competitors, he added. YouTube without Viacom's Comedy Central content is just a platform for less popular user-contributed videos, and though McQuivey doesn't think the site will its luster overnight, over the long haul he's pessimistic for Google.

McQuivey said competitors -- video-platforms such as those belonging to AOL or Yahoo -- could take this opportunity to offer Viacom the kind of deal it couldn't find with Google.

Google and YouTube were not immediately available for comment.