Media

Viacom CEO: "I wanna run" YouTube

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With a fresh batch of internal documents now open to the public, both Viacom and Google are still wrestling over their longstanding copyright infringement lawsuit.

Viacom sued Google in 2007 seeking more than $1 billion in damages, arguing that the search giant Google knowingly allowed Viacom’s content to flourish on the site as it tried to grow usage aggressively. Google says the media conglomerate only engaged in a legal strategy once talks to acquire YouTube fell through. While the fundamental arguments haven’t changed, a few new gossipy e-mails were released today.

Viacom’s chief executive at the time, Tom Freston (who later left after having disagreements with chairman Sumner Redstone), wrote in an e-mail, “If we get UTube… I wanna run it,” while Judy McGrath, who ran Viacom subsidiary MTV Networks, replied, “You’ll have to kill me to get to it first” in a July 2006 e-mail.

She added in another e-mail that YouTube would be the company’s “MySpace play, only better,” in comparison to News Corp.’s acquisition of the social network a year earlier. YouTube also pointed to internal e-mails that showed that Viacom’s marketing department regularly put up promotional videos on the site even as the company claimed the video-sharing site was engaging in copyright infringement.

For its part, Viacom claims YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen would banter back and forth over e-mail about using stolen content:

“Mr. Chen openly suggested stealing movies directly from another site; as he said, “steal it!”  Mr. Hurley responded, “hmm, steal the movies?”  Mr. Chen responded “haha ya.  or something.”   The statements Mr. Hurley quotes in his declaration merely reflect a potential business decision not to steal content from a “stupidvideos.com-type of site” because “sites like this and bigboys.com will never go public.” The founders thus openly considered stealing content based on whether it made business sense — something entirely consistent with Defendants’ intent to grow the site using infringement.”