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Google, Viacom settle YouTube copyright suit

NEW YORK — Seven years after their dispute began, Viacom and YouTube, a unit of Google, said Tuesday they had settled a copyright violations battle out of court.

The agreement comes just before the two companies were to return to court next week and reflects the changed landscape concerning allegations of copyright violations on the Web.

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Neither Viacom, the owner of such cable channels as Comedy Central and the Paramount Pictures movie studio, nor YouTube, the leading global platform for online video, would reveal the terms of the settlement, but the digital news site ReCode reported that no money passed hands.

The lawsuit began two years after YouTube’s creation, with Viacom’s complaint that its shows, like “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” were appearing on YouTube without its permission. Viacom sought $1 billion in damages.

But in the interim, Google has worked to address concerns of content owners such as Viacom by creating a system that allows them to track their content when it is posted and then request it be taken down or run with ads.

The situation has changed so much that in 2012 the two media giants signed a pact to allow YouTube to rent out hundreds of Paramount films.

The joint statement by Viacom and Google alluded to the greatly reshaped landscape, with the comment, “This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together.”

‘This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities.’

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The deal would end a contentious and costly legal battle.

In 2010, US District Judge Louis Stanton ruled in 2010 in Mountain View, Calif.-based Google’s favor. In April 2012, the US Court of Appeals in New York overturned that ruling and sent the case back to the district court. In April 2013, Google for a second time persuaded Stanton to throw out Viacom’s lawsuit.

Stanton said last year that YouTube was protected from liability by the safe harbor provision of the Copyright Act because it removed infringing videos when notified. New York-based Viacom said at the time it would appeal the decision.

In court, Viacom had argued that YouTube used unauthorized copyrighted material to draw visitors to the website and make it more attractive to potential buyers.

The site benefited financially from infringement by reaping revenue from advertisements placed next to the videos, Viacom said.

Google had argued that it had removed infringing videos when notified and also said Viacom uploaded its own videos to YouTube to promote its programs. The website operator said Viacom couldn’t tell which videos were unauthorized and which weren’t.

Google, operator of the world’s biggest Internet search engine, bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. Google said in a filing that Viacom had also been interested in buying the site.

Two years ago, YouTube announced a deal with Viacom’s Paramount Pictures to offer online movie rentals.

The Football Association Premier League Ltd., a British soccer organization, and some music publishers have also sued YouTube in the past, claiming the website violated copyrights by allowing music and video clips to be posted.

Material from The New York Times and Bloomberg News was used in this report.
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