Are You Kidding? A Billion Dollars?

Viacom sued YouTube in U.S. District Court today for more than $1 billion in damages.

According to U.S. copyright law, when a copyright owner’s claim of willful infringement is upheld, the court can award damages of up to $150,000. That would be for every instance of infringement, which could possibly mean every clip.

Take a trip to the calculators, noting that Viacom today pegged the number of infringing clips at 160,000. At up to $150,000 a pop, that’s potential total damages of $24 billion. Seriously. $24 billion.

Viacom, by comparison, didn’t go for the big money (yeah, right). The company said in its suit it was seeking “statutory damages for Defendants’ past and present willful infringement, or actual damages plus profits, of at least one billion dollars.”

Just so we’ve got all the relevant numbers out there, YouTube was, of course, bought for $1.65 billion by Google late last year.

But according to Bear Stearns’ analysis of Google’s SEC filings, YouTube made just $15 million in revenue in 2006.

Of course, Viacom has to win this lawsuit to get to the money stage, but it sounds like a whole lot of things are being overvalued here.