Google faces legal challenges over video service

Reuters/November 10, 2006
By Eric Auchard

San Francisco -- Google Inc's (GOOG.O) video service faces at least one copyright infringement lawsuit, the company confirmed on Friday, and the Web search leader faces a separate subpoena tied to the service.

Copyright infringement has become a hot topic as pirated video from TV, films and music videos has proliferated across the Web. Google runs its own service known as Google Video and last month agreed to buy video site YouTube for $1.65 billion.

Investors are concerned that Google could be financially liable for videos appearing on sites it runs, while the company has said it did not face financial recriminations if it acts quickly to take down copyrighted material once alerted to it.

A report on the Online Media Daily site said the lawsuit, which was filed in France, is seeking 150,000 euros ($193,000). It is related to a documentary video that appeared on Google Video, the media industry site said.

"This is a small lawsuit over a single video that appeared briefly," Google spokesman Ricardo Reyes said in a statement.

"We have procedures in place that allow copyright owners to tell us if their content is placed on Google Video without authorization. When we receive appropriate notice, we quickly remove the content from Google Video," he said.

The lawsuit came to light on Wednesday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing in which Google listed Google Video among a number of businesses that were subject to legal action. It gave no details in the quarterly report. The Google spokesman declined to confirm further details of the suit.

Separately, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a technology rights advocacy group, said subpoenas had been sent to Google Video, YouTube and a third video site, seeking to identify who posted a controversial documentary to the Web.

The subpoena involved a documentary film that aired on French TV in 2004 that was critical of Landmark Education, also known as the Landmark Forum, or simply "The Forum," according to a statement on the EFF's site.

EFF spokeswoman Rebecca Jeschke said she was unaware of any tie between the Google Video lawsuit and the subpoena. Her organization is siding with Google Video, YouTube and the Internet Archive in seeking to quash the subpoena.

Google declined to comment on whether there was any connection.

The film, entitled Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous (Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus), was produced by a French TV news program, Pi?ces Conviction. It features hidden camera footage shot inside a Landmark Forum event in France and a panel discussion on whether or not the organization is a "cult."

The video was posted on Google Video, YouTube and the Internet Archive, among other Web locations. Landmark's subpoenas seek to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to force Google Video and others to identify who posted the film.

Landmark, which was founded in 1991, is a descendant of the 1970s motivational guru Werner Erhard's EST training seminars.

Landmark describes itself as an organization devoted to personal and organizational effectiveness. More than 850,000 people had participated in its programs in more than 20 countries, according a statement by the company in late 2005.

Calls to Landmark's corporate office and general counsel in San Francisco as well as a spokeswoman in New York were not returned.

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