MILAN: Italian media titan Mediaset, controlled by the family of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (pictured), has issued a lawsuit citing Google unit YouTube for "illegal commercial use" of copyrighted video clips.

But Mediaset is third in the YouTube litigation-line, similar writs having already been served by Spanish broadcaster Telecinco (in which Mediaset is the largest shareholder) and Viacom of the USA. 

Mediaset claims that, as at June 10 this year, 4,643 of its clips were featured on YouTube, amounting to more than 325 hours of content. This, avers the writ equates to a total loss of 315,672 viewing days across its three Italian television channels.

Hands aloft in pious indignation, YouTube protests that it "respects copyright holders and takes copyright issues very seriously. There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs."

The Google unit insists it helps content owners to pinpoint illegal clips, using video-recognition technology. It then removes the offending content.

It is not clear if Mediaset had used these tools – or that it had any legal obligation to do so – before filing its lawsuit.

Meantime, the sound of smacking legal lips can be heard from as far away as the UK, where intellectual property partner Joel Smith, at legal leviathan Herbert Smith, could scarce disguise his enthusia.

"This is an area ripe for a major test case, which may reach the European Court of Justice, as courts across Europe are not being consistent in their approach," he salivated.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff