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KAI RYSSDAL: One of the biggest of tech companies was in the news today. Google bought YouTube last year for a billion and a half dollars.But the total cost to the search engine company for the site where people post video clips for the world to see could wind up being way higher.

Google and YouTube have been sued for a cool billion dollars by the media conglomerate Viacom. The company's complaining about what it calls YouTube's brazen disregard for intellectual property law. Marketplace's Lisa Napoli has more on the continuing saga of internet upstarts and old-line media.

LISA NAPOLI: You might think uploading video clips of your favorite TV shows would be the sincerest form of flattery.

Not to Viacom. Today, the media giant went straight for civil court. It's suing and asking You Tube to yank $160,000 offending videos. Viacom says they've been viewed online a billion and a half times.

Gigi Sohn of the advocacy group Public Knowledge says: so much for the consumer.

GIGI SOHN: By filing this lawsuit, Viacom is essentially spitting in the face of its customers and its fans.

Several other media companies angry over copyright issues have struck licensing deals with You Tube. And Viacom had been negotiating when it changed course and filed suit today.

Dawn Chmielewski covers technology for the Los Angeles Times.

DAWN CHMIELEWSKI: There's been gathering momentum and gathering unhappiness on the part of the content owners.

You Tube maintains it's impossible to filter out copyrighted materials as soon as they're posted to the site. But that it yanks them down as soon as someone complains.

Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn says the bigger issue here is rusty old copyright laws built for phonographs and books.

SOHN: What we have here is a pre-VCR copyright law being applied to a post-YouTube world.

Until new laws are written, you can be sure lawyers for file-sharing sites and lawyers for content creators will keep duking it out.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.