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 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.

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