Since it bought YouTube last October, Google has been chasing deals that would give it the right to put mainstream video programming on the site. Just a few weeks ago, Google’s chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, seemed confident that this courtship of old-line media companies would prove fruitful.
“These things take time,” Mr. Schmidt said in an interview. “There is lots and lots of talking and we have not hit any walls.”
Now Google has hit a wall.
Viacom, the parent company of MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, filed a wide-ranging lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, accusing it of “massive copyright infringement.” Viacom said it was seeking more than $1 billion in damages and an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from committing further infringement.
Citing the $1.65 billion that Google paid for YouTube, the complaint said that “YouTube deliberately built up a library of infringing works to draw traffic to the YouTube site, enabling it to gain a commanding market share, earn significant revenues and increase its enterprise value.” The complaint was filed in United States District Court in New York.
Google said it was still reviewing the lawsuit but repeated past assertions that copyright law shields it from liability for clips posted by its users.
The lawsuit is the clearest sign yet of the tension between Google and major media companies. With its acquisition of YouTube, Google had high hopes of becoming a central distribution point for online video, dominating the field just as Apple’s iTunes Store leads the market for digital music.