Google Inc. has acknowledged in a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission that its video-sharing service is the subject of a copyright-infringement suit, a disclosure that could be a harbinger for what the search-engine giant faces when it takes over YouTube.
The Mountain View, Calif., company gave few details about the legal troubles in its quarterly filing, saying only that copyright claims had been filed against Google's video and news services, and its Web, image, and book search offerings. The company did not say how many suits were filed, and did not name the plaintiffs.
In an e-mail statement, Google said the suit against its video service was filed in France and sought only about 150,000 Euros, or $192,400, in damages, an amount considered immaterial to the company's finances.
"This is a small lawsuit over a single video that appeared briefly," the company said. "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."
The SEC filing for the quarter ended Sept. 30 also said the company's planned acquisition of YouTube, one of the most popular video-sharing sites on the Web, could expose the company to additional copyright-infringement suits once the deal is completed. Google announced in October that it would buy YouTube for $1.65 billion.
"Adverse results in these lawsuits may include awards of damages and may also result in, or even compel, a change in our business practices, which could result in a loss of revenue for us or otherwise harm our business," Google said in the filing.
The fact that Google Video has been named in a lawsuit doesn't bode well for YouTube. The latter site regularly posts user-generated videos that contain copyrighted material without permission. YouTube has a standing policy to remove infringing videos at the request of copyright holders.
Nevertheless, the amount of copyright material on the site, which serves up 100 million videos per day, worries analysts. To reduce the chances of a crippling lawsuit, Google and YouTube have separately signed deals with some of the major media companies to share ad revenue from videos containing their content.
YouTube last month removed nearly 30,000 videos at the request of the Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers, which represents 23 media companies, including movie studios and TV networks. The video site also is putting in place online tools that would enable copyright holders to search for infringing videos and remove them.