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Google: We've Spent $100 Million Fighting Viacom

Google’s army of lawyers is fighting for YOUR RIGHTS online!

That’s according to Google CFO Patrick Pichette, who claims the Internet mammoth has plunked down about $100 million so far defending itself against Viacom’s copyright-infringement lawsuit. Last month a federal district court handed Google a major victory in the case, ruling that YouTube is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (see Judge: YouTube Protected From Viacom’s Copyright-Infringement Claims).

But check this out: The $100 million in legal fees isn’t about protecting Google’s financial interests, if you believe Pichette (Viacom was seeking at least $1 billion in damages).

Rather, the battle is about protecting the free speech of Internet users around the world, he said.

The win in the case is “not for us, but for the users and just the Web in general. Specifically for all the blogs and the community forms across the Web that do rely on this user-generated content for sharing information and also for free expression,” Pichette told analysts on Google’s Q2 call yesterday.

Continued Pichette, “Look, we were very passionate about this issue at Google and so much so that we have made significant investment of approximately $100 million to win this case. And, once again, it just was the right thing to do and we did it.”

Part of this posturing is to burnish Google’s self-style image as Don’t Be Evil Inc. and to use free-speech rhetoric to deflect allegations that YouTube engaged in massive contributory copyright infringement.

Meanwhile, $100 million — over several years — would hardly be a blip on Google’s balance sheet (for Q2 2010 revenue was $6.82 billion; COGS and opex were $4.46 billion).

But the case isn’t over yet.

Viacom — which charged that Google and YouTube used the DMCA as a shield only after they deliberately stole Viacom material to drive traffic — is challenging the district court ruling (see Viacom: Yeah, We Knew We’d Have to Appeal the YouTube Case).