Viacom hires Jenner & Block for YouTube battle

Media behemoth Viacom has instructed East Coast litigation specialists Jenner & Block to handle its $1bn copyright case against video site YouTube.

Washington-based Donald Verrilli, head of the firm’s telecommunications practice, is leading the team for Viacom.

Viacom has sued YouTube and its owner Google for copyright infringement, alleging that YouTube features 160,000 unauthorized clips of Viacom’s programming and that these have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

Viacom issued a statement saying: “[YouTube’s] business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws.”

Viacom is seeking to apply old IP laws to new technology, which means the case could become a landmark in IP case law in the US.

William Borchard, IP litigation partner at New York firm Cowan Liebowitz & Latman said: “I think it’s a very interesting case because it applies standard principles to a new medium.”

He added: “If you think about it in terms of traditional copyright principles it’s straightforward, but when courts apply those traditional principles to new media they sometimes find exceptions that weren’t immediately apparent. It’s hard to predict the outcome.”