Viacom May Have E-Mails Showing YouTube Knowingly Violated Copyrights

Viacom (NYSE: VIA) may be in the possession of e-mails proving that YouTube employees knowingly uploaded unauthorized videos, which could help the entertainment company in its $1 billion copyright infringement suit against the video site. The messages, which were exchanged during legal proceedings, purport to show that YouTube managers were aware of the violations, but chose not to take down the videos, Cnet’s Greg Sandoval reports, citing unidentified sources.

If the e-mails are true, it could harm YouTube’s legal case against Viacom, as well as a second class action suit the Google-owned site faces from other content companies. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe-harbor provisions call for sites to immediately remove unauthorized content. If YouTube staffers can be shown to have disregarded that stricture, the company may find itself outside the safe-harbor protection.

But as other messages may show, Viacom staffers may have also turned a blind eye to illegal YouTube uploads as a matter of policy. That could help buttress YouTube’s argument, which has been that it could not tell the difference between what was authorized and what was not, if Viacom itself was allowing certain clips to appear on the site.