Viacom has filed a lawsuit suing Google and its hugely popular online video subsidiary YouTube for $1bn yesterday [March 13] for making available close to 160,000 unauthorised clips of Viacom material.

In papers filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the plaintiff claimed that the clips had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

Viacom is claiming damages and seeks an injunction blocking Google and YouTube from further copyright infringement.

A spokesperson for Google said yesterday morning that while the defendants had not yet seen the lawsuit, they remained confident that YouTube had respected copyright holders.

Earlier this year Viacom demanded its material be removed from YouTube. The media conglomerate does not share the opinion of other content owners that having material on YouTube presents a promotional opportunity.

'[YouTube's] business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws,' Viacom said in a statement.

US legal analysts say the case could open the floodgates for similar copyright infringement actions.