YouTube v Viacom slug-fest
The documents unsealed by US district judge Louis Stanton in the $1bn battle between Viacom and YouTube over copyright infringement make for fascinating reading; they can, it seems, be found here [508Kb PDF] and here at Search Engine Land [2.78Mb PDF].
Looking at the quotes, claims and counter-claims, it really reads like the stuff of soaps. Who is in the right and who is in the wrong will be decided soon enough. Watching the case now is the equivalent of rubber-necking as you pass a multiple pile-up.
For your delectation, here is a collection of some of the quotes contained in the unsealed material as each party puts its case.
Viacom document: In an e-mail dated 19 June 2005, co-founder Steve Chen wrote to fellow co-founders Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim:
"jawed (Karim), please stop putting stolen videos on the site. We're going to have a tough time defending the fact that we're not liable for the copyrighted material on the site because we didn't put it up when one of the co-founders is blatantly stealing content from other sites and trying to get everyone to see it."
"The former President of MTV testified that... 'Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert believed that their presence on YouTube was important for their ratings.'"
(Viacom claimed clips of these TV shows were on the site without authorisation.)
Viacom document: "Ok man, save your meal money for some lawsuits! ;) no really, I guess we'll just see what happens," Mr Hurley tells partners Mr Chen and Mr Karim via e-mail in July 2005, as the three men decide to leave some copyrighted stuff on the site.
Google/YouTube document: "We believe YouTube would make a transformative acquisition for MTV Networks/Viacom that would immediately make us the leading deliverer of video online, globally," said an internal Viacom slide that Google filed with the court.
Viacom document: In one e-mail, Mr Chen urged associates to "concentrate all our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil."
Viacom document: in April 2005, Mr Karim wrote his co-founders, "It's all 'bout da videos, yo. We'll be an excellent acquisition target once we're huge."
Google/YouTube document: "An MTV marketing executive described posting clips to YouTube as a 'no brainer' and raved that the benefits of placing content on YouTube were 'overwhelming'."
"In a memorandum... the Google Video team advised senior Google executives: YouTube is 'a 'rogue enabler' of content theft' 'YouTube's content is all free, and much of it is highly sought after pirated clips.'"
"Viacom alone has uploaded thousands of videos to YouTube to market hundreds of its programs and movies, including many that are now works in suit... Viacom does so for a simple reason: this kind of marketing works. As a Viacom employee explained to The Wall Street Journal: 'you almost can't find a better place than YouTube to promote your movie.'"
Another interesting tit-bit contained in the court documents is just how much everyone made when Google bought YouTube for $1.65bn (£1.1bn).
Viacom noted that on 11 August 2005, outside Sequoia's offices in Palo Alto, YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim asked the two other YouTube co-founders, as captured on video, "At what point would we tell them our dirty little secret, which is that we actually just want to sell out quickly," and Chad Hurley responded, "we'll have to erase the file".
Peter Kafka, who is a senior editor at All Things D has broken the figures that Viacom uses down as follows:
• $516m to Sequoia Capital, which invested $9m in the company
• $334m to co-founder Chad Hurley
• $301m to co-founder Steve Chen
• $85m to Artis Capital, which invested $3m
• $66m to co-founder Jawed Karim
• Five other YouTube employees received shares worth a total of $33.4m
And of course all this proves is you should never ever ever put anything sensitive or disparaging in an e-mail. Or a blog post either, I guess.