The producer of “The World According to Bush” has taken legal action against Google for distributing the film for free, becoming the latest media company to seek compensation for lost business on the Internet.
French production house Flach Film said on Thursday it had issued a writ against the U.S. Internet search engine and its French arm Google France for copyright infringement before a Paris commercial court.
In a statement, Flach Film also warned that a legal Internet video market could not develop if such practices were allowed.
“Flach Film requests the court to sentence Google to provide compensation for the loss resulting from these illegal acts,” Flach said, adding that it alleged Google had “not acted as a simple host but as a fully responsible publisher.”
No one at Google France was immediately available for comment.
While online social networking and file-sharing sites such as YouTube and MySpace enjoy strong popularity, they are also dogged by media companies seeking compensation for downloading of their films, music and videos.
Flach said its film was accessible for free on Google Video France through a simple click, as a stream or a download, and according to Google’s own sources, had had in excess of 43,000 hits in “a very short period.”
Jean-Francois Lepetit, producer of the film, told Reuters on Thursday that Google had cut the web links to the film after being notified of Flach’s legal action.
“We made estimates of the prejudice and its goes well beyond 500,000 euros ($648,700). The film has been downloaded about 50,000 times and it has certainly been copied afterwards,” Lepetit said in a telephone interview.
Earlier this month, Google closed its $1.65 billion acquisition of top online video-sharing site YouTube.
At the time, Google said one-eighth of the equity, or roughly $200 million, would be held in escrow as security on certain unspecified indemnification obligations.
On November 7, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt denied that his company had set aside $500 million to settle copyright claims by media companies as part of its deal to acquire YouTube.
The legal action against Google comes after Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company and which is part of Vivendi group, last week filed a suit against MySpace for infringing copyrights of thousands of its artists’ works.
The lawsuit accuses News Corp’s MySpace of allowing users to upload videos illegally and taking part in the infringement by re-formatting the videos to be played back or sent to others. MySpace has said its procedures for removing illegal downloads live up to laws protecting digital rights.
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