In 2007, media giant Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion, alleging that the website had committed massive copyright infringement by posting thousands of Viacom-produced videos without permission. Over the next seven years, the two companies battled it out in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 2010, YouTube accused Viacom of hiring no fewer than 18 marketing agencies to “continuously and secretly” upload Viacom videos to YouTube. In 2013, Viacom submitted internal YouTube e-mails indicating that the YouTube staff knew that the site was “out of control with copyrighted material,” but that they decided to ignore it. And in April of last year, District Court judge Louis Stanton ruled in favor of YouTube. The parties settled the matter out of court last week, less than a week before oral arguments were scheduled to proceed in Viacom’s appeal.
The terms of the settlement remain a mystery, but a “person close to the matter” reported that no money changed hands, and the companies have since released a joint statement announcing their new status as best friends:
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.
Maybe YouTube agreed to not post any more Viacom videos. Maybe they agreed to post only Viacom videos. Maybe the attorney for YouTube leaned menacingly over a boardroom table, declared himself God, and Viacom decided to back out quietly. We won’t know for sure until someone steals the security tape from wherever the deal took place and uploads it to YouTube.