Google backs down in YouTube copyright fight
Months ago, word was that Google had piled up a "war chest" to fund a long-term legal battle against Viacom's $1 billion copyright lawsuit. Was that all talk? Seems so, after Google today launched YouTube Video Identification, a tool to help copyright owners identify and manage their content when it's uploaded to YouTube. With the new ID tool, content owners can block, promote or license their copyrighted content for a share of Google's ad revenue. Our analysis of Google turning tail after the jump.

When it announced the new tool today, Google emphasized that it was under no legal responsibility to do so.

In fact, since even before Viacom filed its $1 billion suit against Google for "massive copyright infringement" in March, Google has insisted the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) places the responsibility of monitoring copyright content on the copyright owner.

"No matter how accurate the tools get, it is important to remember that no technology can tell legal from infringing material without the cooperation of the content owners themselves," an explanation on YouTube reads.

But the disclaimers haven't kept Viacom from gloating over what seems to be an early capitulation in what once looked to be a drawn-out legal battle.

"We're delighted that Google appears to be stepping up to its responsibility and ending the practice of profiting from infringement," said Mike Fricklas, Viacom's top lawyer.

In other words, take that, geekboys.

Truth is, I'm a little stunned at Google's reverse. I can still picture YouTube product counsel Glenn Brown comfortably reclined in a swivel chair, explaining just how impossible it would be to monitor YouTube uploads for copyrighted content. Harder even to identify than porn, Brown said.

What gives, Googlers? Fill us in on what happened.