Viacom’s YouTube Legal Strategy: Give A Little

Viacom has taken a bruising from the technorati over its $1 billion lawsuit against Google and YouTube; they think that Viacom should thank YouTube for airing its Jon Stewart clips. We’ve piled on too, but for different reasons: We think it’s reasonable for Viacom to demand compensation from YouTube for use of its video; we just think that a lawsuit wasn’t the best way to extract it.

But if we’re understanding the hints that Viacom general counsel Mike Fricklas has been leaving, it appears as if Viacom is ready to step away from the courtroom and back to the negotiating table. Last month Fricklas went out of his way to say that he’d prefer not to fight Google in court. Today, after YouTube rolled out its new filtering system, Viacom’s pr staff provided this quote from Fricklas: “We’re delighted that Google appears to be stepping up to its responsibility and ending the practice of profiting from infringement.

Remember that Viacom and Google weren’t at loggerheads over YouTube from the get-go: They had negotiated for months before Viacom filed its suit. Now it looks as if they’re ready for another round of negotiations. Alternate interpretation: Viacom isn’t any closer to settling than before — Fricklas is simply making nice in public and saving the hardball for the courtroom. And Google may want to push the case through court itself: If it can get a ruling that says that it really isn’t violating copyright when users put up pirated video, it will give the company enormous leverage — years from now, when the case finally works its way through the court system. But our guess is that this lawsuit settles sooner, not later.

Related: Google Unveils Video Filter. Viacom Settlement Coming?
Viacom Lawyer: Google Case In Court By 2009