Viacom to YouTube: Take It All Off

Viacom has told YouTube to remove 100,000 clips featuring its television and Web video content, a trove of video material accounting for roughly 1.2 billion individual streams, Viacom said.

The move suggests Viacom’s worry over online copyright infringement outweighs the promotional benefits gained from reaching the YouTube audience.

In a statement, the company claimed “months of ongoing discussions with YouTube and Google” had failed to result in a fair revenue sharing agreement, and that YouTube must remove the clips immediately. Viacom owns MTV, Comedy Central, iFilm, BET and other media properties.

“YouTube and Google retain all of the revenue generated from this practice, without extending fair compensation to the people who have expended all of the effort and cost to create it,” the statement said.

Viacom also referenced YouTube’s as-yet-unfulfilled promise to develop filtering software capable of detecting copyrighted content. Such technology would let copyright holders decide whether to have the material removed or receive a share of the ad revenue generated by it.

YouTube said it had received the takedown request and would comply with it.

“It’s unfortunate that Viacom will no longer be able to benefit from YouTube’s passionate audience which has helped to promote many of Viacom’s shows,” YouTube said in a statement. “We will continue to work with content partners large and small to provide them with a platform to promote their content and engage and grow their audiences.”

When asked about the promotional boost its programs have gained from distribution on YouTube, a Viacom spokesperson said Viacom’s own 136 Web sites adequately reach the online audience.

“We have our collection of sites as well, and they’re robust,” he said, pegging the total monthly audience at 36 million uniques. Those sites include MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach and online gaming platform Xfire.

While Google and YouTube have struck a smattering of deals with broadcasters, including NBC and CBS, their relations with television and music studios still hang in the balance. YouTube is now over halfway through a year-long promotional agreement with NBC, under which the site has agreed to display NBC Entertainment content. That agreement followed an earlier, well publicized flap in which NBC ordered YouTube to remove clips of a Saturday Night Live sketch, Lazy Sunday, that had become a breakaway hit on the site.

CBS meanwhile has a financial relationship with YouTube, under which it can sell ads against its own content and split the resulting revenue with the video sharing site.

YouTube also has deals with several record labels, including BMG Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group.

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