Google and Viacom announced on Tuesday morning that they have resolved a long-running legal dispute over unauthorized TV show clips posted during the early days of YouTube.
The case, which began in 2007 when Viacom demanded $1 billion from Google, has been seen as a landmark test of copyright law’s so-called “safe harbor” rules, which can protect website owners from copyright infringement committed by their users.
Google has won a series of major victories in the case, including last April when a court threw out the case for a second time on the grounds that Google did not have “red flag” knowledge of the infringing shows. The judge had initially dismissed the case in 2010 but an appeals court partially reinstated it, leading to the second dismissal in April.
Viacom filed an appeal once again last year, but the sides have now laid the matter to rest, citing a desire for collaboration:
“Google and Viacom today jointly announced the resolution of the Viacom vs. YouTube copyright litigation. This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together.”
The companies did not say if Google paid Viacom under the settlement, though Recode reports that no money changed hands.
The statement not only signifies an end to one of the country’s biggest copyright cases, but also reflects Google’s evolving relation with content creators. When the initial suit was filed in 2007, Google was regarded with enmity by studios and other copyright owners, who argued the search giant sought to profit from illegal content. Today, Google is itself a major player in the content creation space, and has assuaged many critics with its Content ID system, which provides a way for content owners to insert ads into YouTube clips uploaded by users.
The decision to settle the case reflects better relations between Google and content owners, but also comes at a time when studios have been having some limited success in chipping at copyright law’s safe harbor rules.
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