Archive for March 19th, 2010

19
Mar
10

Google ‘may announce China plans on Monday’

NEWS
Google ‘may announce China plans on Monday’

Friday, 19 March 2010

••• Google Inc. may pull out of China on April 10, China Business News reported Friday, citing an unidentified Chinese sales agent for the company.

The search engine may announce its exit Monday , the Shanghai-based newspaper reported, citing an unidentified Google China employee. It may reveal plans for its China work force on the same day, according to the report.

The company hasn’t confirmed the April 10 date for its pullout, although CEO Eric Schmidt said last week that something should happen soon.

A Tokyo-based spokeswoman for the company, Jessica Powell, declined to comment on the newspaper report.

In January, Google challenged the government of the world’s most populous country by threatening to allow all search results to be shown on its Chinese-language Web, including references to Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The Chinese government, which restricts Internet content, said the company had to obey its rules. The two sides have since been in talks to resolve the issue.

Google told its China employees after the January announcement that, should a pullout occur, they would have the option of moving to the company’s U.S. headquarters or working for its Asia-Pacific operations, the report said.

That suggests an exit from the Chinese market would only include the closure of Google.cn, rather than a complete end to Google’s business in China, the report said. Google has about 35 percent of the Chinese search market.

A pullout by the U.S. company would mean it would probably be unable to return to the world’s biggest Internet market, said Peter Lui, formerly the company’s financial controller for the Asia Pacific region.

The public manner in which Google announced its intention means it may have “burnt bridges, and they’ve burnt the Google brand in China,” Lui said. “There is no way Google can ever come back.”

The company said it decided to stop censoring content after discovering its computers had been hacked from within China. Google said its systems had been targeted by highly sophisticated attacks aimed at obtaining proprietary information, as well as personal data belonging to Chinese human rights activists who use the company’s Gmail service.

At least 20 other international companies were similarly targeted, Google said.

The New York Times reported last month that the origins of the attacks had been traced to Shanghai Jiaotong University and Lanxiang Vocational School in eastern China’s Shandong province. The reports are “totally groundless,” said Qin Gang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.

McAfee Inc., the second-largest maker of computer security software that has been exploring the attacks with larger rival Symantec Corp., said this month it had discovered at least six incidents in which the computer systems that companies use to house valuable intellectual property had been accessed. Security research firm ISEC Partners Inc. said the attacks that Google reported employed skills that were “much greater than most enterprises are equipped to deal with.”

Speculation that negotiations had faltered intensified after the government said last week the plan to stop filtering at its Google.cn site was irresponsible. Some Google advertisers in China have been advised to switch to rivals, including Baidu Inc.

China censors online content it deems critical of the government by shutting down Web sites based in the nation and blocking access to overseas sites, including those of Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and YouTube. The Chinese service started by Google in 2006 limits search results to comply with government restrictions, such as blocking access to sites that discuss Taiwan or Tibetan independence, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement and the Tiananmen Square military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

China has 384 million Internet users, according to government data, more than the total U.S. population.
• Source(s): AFP, Cox Media & CNN
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19
Mar
10

Top Democrats predict Sunday passage

NEWS
Top Democrats predict Sunday passage

Friday, March 19, 2010

Democratic leaders are now confidently predicting victory in a Sunday health-reform vote, saying the party will have the 216 votes needed to pass President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority by then.

“We’ll have the votes when the roll is called,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Friday. The Democrats top vote-counter, Rep. James Clyburn, concurred. “I feel very sure that we’ll vote on this some time Sunday, and the bill will pass,” Clyburn said.

Adding another spark to an already dramatic weekend session, the White House announced that Obama will come to the Capitol at 4 p.m. on Saturday to meet with Democrats in an attempt to close the deal.

And Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her strongest comments of the week on Friday, saying “I’m very excited about the momentum building around this bill. We’re one day closer to passing this legislation.”

Democrats keep getting boosts with fresh “yes” votes from wavering Democrats – the latest coming from Rep. John Boccieri of Ohio, who is flipping from “no” to “yes.”

Clyburn said Thursday’s release of a final price-tag on the bill – showing that it would reduce deficits for the next 20 years – is helping to pull wavering members over to supporting the bill.

Neither Hoyer nor Clyburn said the Democrats have reached 216 yet, and most unofficial estimates put them at least a handful of votes shy of the total. Friday promised to bring clarity on which of the fence-sitters would come down as a yes, or a no.

New York Rep. Eliot Engel, for instance, told MSNBC Friday morning that he’ll support the bill, after being undecided. He voted yes the last time. Rep. John Boccieri, of Ohio, who voted no last time, held a news conference to say he’d vote yes this time.

“A lot of people have told me this decision could cost me my job,” he said. “I’m standing up today and doing what I believe in.”

Also on Friday, Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak told ABC News that he’s encouraging House leadership to try to pass a separate bill reaffirming his tough anti-abortion language – which currently isn’t in the Senate version of the bill the House will take up Sunday.

“That’s called a ‘enrollment corrections bill.’ I presented that to leadership about 10 days ago. There is renewed interest in that piece of legislation that I and a number of us are ready to introduce. … That’s one way – maybe. But we still have to deal with the Senate. … ,” Stupak told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

If Stupak could reach a deal with House leadership, anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen votes would stay in the yes column – enough to ensure passage of the bill on Sunday. Democratic leaders have insisted they can pass the bill without or without Stupak’s support, and Clyburn on Friday downplayed talk of a separate bill on abortion.

The comments by Hoyer and Clyburn came after Democrats’ yearlong health reform push picked up unmistakable momentum Thursday, as the votes began to fall into place for a history-making roll call Sunday that could achieve the party’s decades-long goal of expanding health care.

Hoyer also said Friday that Republicans have few options to hold up the reconciliation health care bill in the House.

“The Republicans cannot draw out the process in the House. It’s the Senate where they can draw it out,” he told reporters as he left the Democratic caucus meeting. “It’s essentially a conference report. You can’t make amendments to conference reports.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still had plenty of work to do but a series of events Thursday – the president postponing his overseas trip, a solid deficit reading and a handful of members firming up as “yes” votes – all left the impression of a bill gaining ground.

The question now is whether these last-minute conversions will be enough to offset a collection of wavering Democrats who could trade their “yes” votes for “no” votes in the final round of a yearlong fight.

Democrats opened the day on an up note after the Congressional Budget Office unveiled its initial cost estimate for the House-Senate compromise. The government’s official scorekeeper put the cost of subsidies and new programs created by the bill at $940 billion over the next decade and predicted the bill would save the government $138 billion during the same period – a projection that seemed to buoy fiscal conservatives. Democrats also said the bill is fully paid for and would cover 95 percent of all Americans.

Hours later, a pair of Democrats who voted against the House bill – retiring Tennessee Rep. Bart Gordon and first-term Colorado Rep. Betsy Markey – said they would vote yes this time around. That came on the heels of another announcement of support from a frequent critic of the legislation, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez.

“I’ve spent the past week speaking at length with the president and his staff; in fact, I spoke with him again just this morning,” said Gutierrez, who led the protests against Senate language that would bar illegal immigrants from purchasing insurance through the exchange. “After extensive discussions with the president, I believe we have a health care bill I can vote yes for, and I believe we have a commitment to move forward on a comprehensive immigration reform package as soon as possible.”

Adding to the sense of drama, Obama abruptly postponed until June his planned trip to Indonesia and Australia so that he could be in town for the House vote – and perhaps to sign the House-Senate bill after passage. The Senate is expected to take up a clean-up reconciliation bill as early as Tuesday, if the House passes the bill first.

Obama had been scheduled to leave Sunday – having already once delayed his departure from Friday – but risked being half a world away as the signature legislative goal of his first two years came to the House floor.

But problems remain.

Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch, a former union chief, threatened to vote against the bill for a number of reasons, like the tax on high-end health care plans and his mistrust that the Senate will be able to approve whatever the House does this weekend. He’ll met with Obama Thursday, and he told reporters he’s not a “lost cause.”

Pelosi spent an entire round of votes Thursday afternoon pleading her case to Ohio Rep. Zack Space, a Democrat who has twice voted for health care reform but now seems to be leaning “no.”

“Every vote is a heavy lift,” Pelosi told reporters during an afternoon news conference. “We have great diversity in our caucus. We don’t have a rubber-stamp Congress or rubber-stamp caucus.”

During a round of evening votes, the speaker buttonholed Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry, another retiring Democrat who voted for the House bill. He listened to her for about five minutes as he leaned over his cane while she gestured enthusiastically, but then they both got up, and the speaker moved on.

Also Thursday, another group of Democrats – those who initially voted for the House bill – sided with Republicans on a muddled procedural vote that the GOP framed as a bid to force Democrats to abandon the so-called Slaughter Solution, a procedural maneuver that would “deem” the Senate bill passed without a direct vote.

The group of Democrats included New York Rep. Michael Arcuri, Pennsylvania Rep. Kathleen Dahlkemper, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Virginia Rep. Thomas Perriello.

But Lynch voted with his leaders. So, too, did Space, along with his Ohio colleague Rep. Steve Driehaus, another key swing vote. Even Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, whose well-publicized indecision has become an amusing subplot to some of his colleagues, voted with party leaders.

But the amendment failed – yet another development in a series of breakthroughs for Democrats as they try to build momentum for a final vote on Sunday afternoon.

Other fence-sitters said they’re trying to work through their concerns with the bill in the next three days.

“I want to get to ‘yes,’” said Indiana Rep. Baron Hill, who has voted for the bill twice now – once in the House, once on the Energy and Commerce Committee – but has problems with a 2.9 percent tax on medical-device manufacturers that would hurt companies in his district. “This health care bill is very important.”

Fellow Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who backed the first version of the bill, said he’s winnowed his problems with the legislation down to its restrictions on federal funding for elective abortions. He said he’s been speaking with people on both sides of the issue and will make a decision based on whether he thinks the legislation meets the existing standards of prohibiting federal funds for abortion.

A big concern at this point is whether Senate Democrats can rebuff any attempts by Republicans – or Democrats – to change the bill through amendments to the reconciliation package. Pelosi has been dismissive of that prospect in her public statements. Hoyer has been more circumspect about the Senate.

Waxman said the Senate will give the House assurances that “those amendments that will be offered will not be successful.” A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid backed up those assertions later in the day.

But Sen. Kent Conrad didn’t do his party any favors by suggesting Republicans would be able to challenge some of the things in the bill – a comment his office later tried to walk back.

Despite that, most members acknowledge the historic import of where they stand and seem to be overcoming their particular problems with the bill.

In a bid to mollify House Democrats, party leaders drastically reduced the tax on high-end health care plans by shielding all but the highest-end coverage and protecting things such as vision and dental care. But those changes resulted in lost tax revenue; the measure now brings in $32 billion compared with the $149 billion the Senate raised in its plan. And the final bill pegs the tax to inflation instead of inflation-plus-1 percent, but that change wasn’t enough to frustrate critics of the tax.

“It’s not enough of a problem that I would object to the compromise,” said Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney, a principal opponent of the tax.

Gordon, the retiring chairman of the Science Committee who voted against the House bill, applauded the final package for lowering costs for families and businesses, giving people more access to health coverage and lowering the deficit.

“In the end, the question I’m faced with is this: Will this reform be better for Middle Tennessee than the status quo?” Gordon said in a release. “I think it will. That’s why I believe passing meaningful health care reform is essential and why I have made my decision to help ensure health care is affordable for Middle Tennesseans today and for generations to come.”

Markey told a Colorado newspaper that she’s ready to embrace the compromise because it does a better job of lowering costs than the initial House version. Her support earned her praise from the White House, but it gives Republicans a big bull’s-eye for the November election.

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19
Mar
10

Boehner says vote will haunt Democrats

NEWS
Boehner says vote will haunt Democrats

Friday, March 19, 2010

House Minority Leader John Boehner says this weekend’s votes on healthcare reform will haunt Democrats through November’s election and mean “sacrificing a big number of their members” to meet President Barack Obama agenda.

“I don’t think any American is going to forget this vote anytime soon” and among those watching most closely, he revealed, is Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush, who talked with the Republican leader just Friday.

“I talked to him this morning. He’s doing great,” Boehner said. “ He loves all this. I mean he’s following it closely.”

And what does Bush say about health care? “I probably already said more than I should,” Boehner said, “But he’s following it closely.”

Looking back at the turnaround in the health care debate over the last six weeks, Boehner said he had never been convinced that the Democratic initiative was dead and agreed that Republicans were hurt in early February when news broke that California’s largest for-profit insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, was seeking big rate increases. “It certainly wasn’t helpful,” he chuckled.

Sunday’s anticipated showdown now in the House “is going to be close, but if the American people stay engaged in this fight we can still win… All our attention is focused on making sure this thing never, never, ever becomes law.” Boehner said.

But asked about November’s fall out, he was even blunter. “Are you kidding?” he laughed, saying Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) was putting her members at risk to a level that Republicans — in his experience — have never dared.

“They are committed to this big government control of health care, and they want to plant this flag of liberalism while they have the chance even though they are sacrificing a big number of their own members,” Boehner said. “I don’t ever recall Republicans ever putting things on the floor where they knew they were driving people over the cliff into defeat.”

Boehner said the one bright spot of bipartisan co-operation has been in the education arena, where he credited Education Secretary Arne Duncan with reaching out to Republicans on a successor bill to the Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” reforms.

“They’re saying all the right things,” Boehner said. “We’ve not seen the bill, but so far, they’re good…It’s the first thing I’ve seen in the last 14 months that indicates they’re starting to get it.”

But on financial regulatory reform, he said Democrats were “trying to do about 99 times more than need to be done,” and that any hope of a deal rested on what comes out of the Senate.”

“Let’s go fix the problems on Wall Street…Let’s not go beat up on people who had nothing to do with the crisis but [are] paying the penalty for what happened in Wall Street. It’s just over-reach.”

Asked if this put his own members in jeopardy—opposing a consumer financial agency that many voters want—Boehner was unfazed. “Suck it up” was his advice. “There’s a way to fix this ..I’m hopeful the Senate will find it.”

“As a matter of fact, if the Senate is able to produce a bill—I underline `if’ a few times—it will be much closer to where many of us would like to be than the House bill.”

Although he made no such linkage, Boehner’s strong opposition on the regulatory front could yet play to his party’s advantage in trying to narrow the Democrats’ lead in fundraising for the November elections and take back the House.

“We don’t need to out raise them, but we need enough resources to get our guys across the line,” Boehner said. He said Republicans now have one or more candidates running in 95 of what they see as the top 100 races for the House, and he wasn’t discouraged by the prospect of multiple primary fights.

“Primaries are competition,” he said. “Competition makes everyone better.”

His big grassroots focus, the so-called “Agenda Project,” will be a spring and summer “listening” campaign leading up to anticipated platform announcement near Labor Day — what many take as a flashback to the famous “Contract with America” used by Republicans in the 1994 elections.

“If we’re in the majority and I’m lucky enough to be speaker, I’m going to run the House differently than it is today and differently than my Republican colleagues in the past,” Boehner said. In the same vein, he warned if “anybody who gets the sense that this is a product handed down by a group of politicians, it will fall flat on its face.”

“The process of developing this is as important as what the final product is. We have to allow Americans to participate in this process. We have to prove to them that we are listening.”

“We’re going to solicit a lot of input. The American people don’t think their Congress is listening…We’re going to reach out to the Tea Partiers, reach out to every American who wants to take a role in this.”

And with Washington’s weather improving, will he and Obama finally play golf?

“He hasn’t asked….He’s talked about it a dozen times. It just hasn’t happened,” Boehner said.

“I get along fine with the president. We disagree but we’re not disagreeable.”

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19
Mar
10

British Airways strike to go ahead as rail union votes for walkout

NEWS
British Airways strike to go ahead as rail union votes for walkout

Friday, March 19, 2010

NEWS

••• Final hour talks to avert a three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew collapsed today, just hours after Britain’s disgruntled rail workers voted to walk out.

There was misery for holidaymakers today as last ditch talks aimed at averting strikes by British Airways cabin crew collapsed.

Planned industrial action will go ahead from midnight after officials from the Unite union failed to reach a breakthrough with BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh in a bitter row over cost-cutting.

Unite’s joint leader, Tony Woodley, said he was “extremely disappointed” that the efforts to head off a three-day strike from tomorrow had failed and accused BA of wanting a “war” with the union.

He emerged from five hours of talks with Mr Walsh at the TUC headquarters in London today saying BA had tabled a worse offer than one withdrawn last week.

He said: “It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to our people that he (Mr Walsh) tabled a deal that reduced the amount of pay on offer.

“It is ridiculous to expect anyone to go to their membership with a worse offer.”

The union has announced another four-day walkout from March 27 which will spell misery for the great Easter getaway.

And the news came just hours after railway signal workers voted for the first national rail strike in 16 years, which is expected to add to the transport chaos.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union announced it had received an overwhelming support from workers for strike action – with more than half in favour of the national stoppage.

RMT said 54 per cent of its members backed strikes, with 77 per cent supporting industrial action short of a strike. Turnout in the ballot was 71 per cent.

Maintenance workers belonging to the RMT union have already voted to go on strike in protest at the 1,500 job losses at Network Rail.

The RMT’s executive will meet next Thursday to consider its next move, warning that action will be called if there is no progress in the dispute.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Once again in this ballot RMT members have shown that they back the union’s campaign against Network Rail’s cuts programme and the assault on jobs and working conditions that even the Government’s own regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation, has said will have severe safety implications out on the tracks.

“Nobody should be under any illusions about just how determined RMT members are to win our fight against Network Rail’s cuts programme and to stop this reckless gamble with rail safety.

“Over 150 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion opposing Network Rail’s cuts plans and have urged the Government to intervene to call a halt to this jobs carnage on the tracks.

“RMT remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with Network Rail based on protecting safety-critical jobs and safe working practices. With the combination of the strike mandates, political and public pressure the focus is now on the company to pull back from the brink and reverse their cuts programme.”

Yesterday RMT officials met executives at Network Rail (NR), which is seeking to cut jobs and change working practices to allow more maintenance work to be carried out at weekends.

The company described the talks as “professional” and “business-like”, and the RMT negotiators will report back to the union’s executive today.

Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association have also voted in favour of industrial action, threatening the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest on the railways for more than a decade.

NR has said 1,100 workers have already volunteered for redundancy and the “vast majority” of the 1,500 cuts will be achieved without the need for compulsory lay-offs.

The firm said it believed it could keep trains running in the event of a strike by maintenance workers, adding that it was not prepared to have the RMT “hold the country to ransom”.

NR placed full-page adverts in national newspapers yesterday, warning that strikes would be “totally unjustified”.

Cabin crew strike
Unite, the trade union that represents the majority of British Airways (BA) cabin crew, has announced its intention to take strike action from 20 to 22 March and 27 to 30 March 2010.
Updated information including some cancellations for flights departing on 23 and 24 March 2010

• Source(s): U.K. Press, ITN & British Airways
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19
Mar
10

Obama: Health Care Debate is About Country’s Character

NEWS
Obama: Health Care Debate is About Country’s Character

Friday, March 19, 2010

President Obama made a last-minute push for his health care reform plan Friday in advance of Sunday’s planned vote in the House, telling a supportive audience at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia that “a century-long struggle” for reform is about to “culminate in a historic vote.”

The president, who appeared energetic and enthusiastic, linked passage of the health care bill to the passage of social security and civil rights legislation, arguing that the debate on the legislation is “about the character of our country.”

He cited past presidents who have supported reform, among them Republican Teddy Roosevelt, who he quoted as having backed “aggressive fighting” for expanded coverage.

“I know this has been a difficult journey,” he said. “I know this will be a tough vote.” The president said that while he doesn’t know how pushing for reform will “play politically,” he does know that it’s the right thing to do.

The president said that despite rhetoric suggesting the legislation represents radical change, the bill is ultimately about “common sense reform.” He added that if the bill does not pass, the insurance industry “will continue to run amok.”

“They will continue to deny people coverage,” he said. “They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 or 50 or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever. They know this. That’s why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak. And pouring millions of dollars into negative ads. That’s why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill.”
He continued: “So the only question left is this: Are we going to let the special interests win again? Or are we going to make this vote a victory for the American people?”

House Democrats have been working furiously to secure the votes to pass the bill ahead of the Sunday vote from skittish lawmakers concerned about their reelection prospects as well as issues like the cost of the $940 billion package.

The president noted that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would more than pay for itself over time, reducing the deficit by $1 trillion over two decades.

“This proposal’s paid for,” he said, contrasting it with previous Washington “schemes” that self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives have supported. Citing rising health care costs, he added: “We can’t afford not to do this.”

The president compared reporting on the bill to “Sportscenter” and “Rock’em Sock’em Robots,” with cable talking heads more concerned about the political implications of action than its practical impact.

He also laid out what is contained in the package, stressing the reforms that would be instituted this year, among them:

  • Banning insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions or dropping coverage when people get sick;
  • Eliminating annual or lifetime coverage limits;
  • Requiring insurance plans to offer free preventive care to customers;
  • And extending how long young people can stay on their parents’ insurance plans to age 26.

As Mr. Obama made his speech, Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, gave a press conference noting that the president is “doing the hard sell” on this bill. Boehner said voting against the bill is ultimately about “doing the right thing for the American people.”

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19
Mar
10

Google: Viacom wanted to buy YouTube

NEWS
Google: Viacom wanted to buy YouTube

Friday, March 19, 2010

Court filings released on Thursday in the bitter $1 billion copyright fight between Viacom and Google’s YouTube show just how far apart the companies remain, as the 3-year-old case winds through federal court.

Viacom, in 108 pages of court documents, portrays YouTube’s founders as reckless copyright violators who were far more concerned with increasing traffic to their site than obeying the law. Even executives at Google, which acquired YouTube for $1.7 billion in October 2006, questioned the ethics of building a site through questionable copyright practices, according to the Viacom filings.

But in the 100-page document filed by Google, perhaps not surprisingly, the search engine tells a different story. Viacom is painted as a media giant trying to play it both ways: demanding that YouTube take down videos even while third parties were uploading Viacom content on the entertainment giant’s behalf. More intriguingly, the parent company of MTV and Paramount Pictures was at one point interested in acquiring the video-sharing site, according to the documents.

“We believe YouTube would make a transformative acquisition for MTV Networks/Viacom that would immediately make us the leading deliverer of video online, globally,” according to an internal Viacom slide that Google filed with the court.

Interesting as the documents may be, it’s not clear which side will benefit most from the disclosures. Google argues that it is protected by the safe-harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says, in short, that if a Web site acts in good faith to take down copyrighted content as soon as it learns of it, and it has not benefited financially through advertising or other means, it is protected from a lawsuit. Viacom is attempting to pierce that protection by proving that YouTube employees, at the very least, knew of rampant copyright violations on their site and did little about it.

U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton, in the Southern District of New York, set March 5 as the deadline for filing for summary judgment and gave the parties until April 30 to file opposing arguments to each other’s motions. All the arguments should be completed sometime in June. If the case proceeds to trial, it should occur sometime this year.

Legal scholars believe that the outcome of this landmark suit could well determine who gets to profit the most from content: the people who pay for its creation, or the people who help disseminate it over the Web. It could also determine whether YouTube, by far the most popular video site, suffers from an original sin of rampant copyright violation before Google took over.

Ill-gotten rewards, destroyed e-mail?
While there are still questions as to how much money Google is or is not making from YouTube, there is little doubt that YouTube’s founders profited handsomely from selling their company less than two years after building the site. According to court records, YouTube founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim walked away with $334 million, $301 million, and $66 million, respectively.

According to Viacom, those were ill-gotten rewards. The three young men had already planned to look the other way, as far as copyright violations were concerned, court documents claim. Their intent was to create the online-video equivalent of Napster and then sell it. To do that, Viacom claims that the team sought ways “to avoid the copyright bastards.”

Viacom said in one e-mail that Chen urged associates to “concentrate all our efforts in building up our numbers as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil.”

Viacom suggests that it may not have been given the benefit of finding out the whole story at YouTube, whose managers did not turn over some e-mails belonging to Hurley. The reason Google gave for any missing correspondence was that Hurley’s e-mails were accidentally destroyed when his computer suffered a malfunction sometime before the Google acquisition. Viacom said, however, that it was able to retrieve some of Hurley’s e-mails from Karim.

Those e-mails show that YouTube managers knew that employees uploaded unauthorized content and applauded such moves, Viacom claimed.

Google argues that Viacom has distorted and taken out of context many of the statements from YouTube’s e-mails while doing a sloppy cut-and-paste job on some of the YouTube e-mails. In one e-mail from Chen to Karim, it said, Viacom omitted the word “stop” from this passage: “In other news, Jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site.”

Google provides several e-mails showing that from the earliest days of YouTube’s existence, the founders sought to protect copyright. In one April 25, 2005, e-mail, Chen tells the other co-founders that videos would be rejected that violated one of the following rules: “video must be about you, must be appropriate for all audiences, cannot contain contact information, no copyrighted material.”

In an apparent attempt to underscore YouTube’s usefulness and to suggest that Viacom is being hypocritical, Google noted that Viacom continues to do business on YouTube.

Even after waging the court battle against Google and YouTube, Viacom continues to permit some of its materials to be posted there, according to a statement entered into the record by David King, who oversees YouTube’s Content Identification System, the technology designed to filter out copyrighted materials and block them from being reposted to the site.

“For some of its reference files, Viacom has instructed the site to block, which means take it down and prevent it from going up again,” King wrote. “But on others, Viacom has instructed YouTube to leave the clips up and provide the company with information “about how YouTube users are engaging with the matching videos.”

Viacom’s attempt to buy YouTube
According to Google, Viacom “thought so highly of YouTube that it tried, unsuccessfully, to buy it” in 2005, the search company wrote. After Viacom’s negotiations to buy YouTube fell through, it took a “strong-arm approach” in talks with Google as the new owner and at that time “deliberately allowed its content to remain on YouTube” to boost the ratings of TV shows.

Viacom, according to Google, was serious enough about acquiring YouTube that it extended an offer. What Viacom suggested to YouTube was that Viacom and Google buy it and operate the service together.

“So the idea would be Viacom and Google buy YouTube,” Adam Cahan, a former executive vice president at Viacom-owned MTV Networks and now the CEO of Auditude, wrote in a cited e-mail. “Viacom legitimizes the content on the site by providing content and developing a business model.”

Some YouTube supporters are bound to wonder whether Viacom’s lawsuit was just retaliation for being outbid by Google.

On the other side, Viacom argues that it was always the intent of YouTube’s founders to draw an audience by piggybacking on the popularity of professionally made clips. But first, Viacom claims that the team tried to come up with ways “to avoid the copyright bastards.”

Google says Viacom has distorted and taken out of context many of the statements from YouTube’s e-mails.

While some of the accusations that each of the parties are flinging at the other are intriguing, many of them will have little or no bearing on the relevant issues. What’s most important now is the judge’s reading of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

Google’s legal defense rests on the wording of the DMCA, whose safe-harbor provision says that as long as the Web site does not have knowledge of “apparent” infringing activity, and as long as it does not receive a “financial benefit”–such as displaying advertisements on the page–it will generally be immune from lawsuits.

Viacom insists that Google doesn’t qualify for the safe harbor because it not only profited by selling ads on the site, but it also built up a large fan base that was drawn by the unauthorized copies of films and TV shows. In addition, Viacom argues that Google had knowledge of copyright violations, as is evidenced in the e-mails from YouTube’s founders.

Whichever way Stanton rules, the losing party will probably appeal. The final outcome of the case will likely help clarify whether protecting intellectual-property rights on the Internet is the responsibility of a copyright owner or a Web site operator.

Regardless, it’s fun reading, if you’re into this kind of thing. Note the concern among Viacom executives that News Corp. would end up owning YouTube instead of them.

Viacom’s statement of undisputed facts

Google’s statement of undisputed facts

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