A legal tussle pitting media conglomerate Viacom Inc. against online video leader YouTube is about to get dirtier as a federal judge prepares to release documents that will expose their secrets, which could prove pivotal in this 3-year-old copyright dispute that has important implications for the internet, reports the Associated Press. The information expected to be unsealed March 18 could provide insights into the early strategies of YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen and how they responded to copyright complaints that quickly accumulated a few months after the web site’s 2005 debut. Viacom contends that YouTube’s employees realized copyright-protected video was being illegally posted on the web site, but routinely looked the other way because they knew the professionally produced material would help attract a bigger audience. YouTube’s lawyers have argued there was no way to know whether copyright-protected video was coming from pirates or from movie and TV studios looking to use the web site as a promotional tool. If a studio issued a notice of a copyright violation, YouTube says it promptly removed the specified clip as required under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The 1998 federal law generally protects service providers such as YouTube from copyright claims as long as they promptly remove infringing material when notified about a violation. The outcome could hinge on whether Viacom can prove YouTube knew about the copyright abuses without formal notice from Viacom…

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staff and wire services reports