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Viacom Sues Google Over YouTube for $1 Billion 508

Posted by Zonk
from the everyone-get-their-doctor-evil-fingers-up dept.
Snowgen writes "Viacom has filed a $1,000,000,000.00 lawsuit for 'massive intentional copyright infringement' against Google over YouTube video clips. '"YouTube's strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site," Viacom said in a statement. "Their 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.'"
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Viacom Sues Google Over YouTube for $1 Billion

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  • Whew (Score:5, Funny)

    by Applekid (993327) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:50AM (#18332165)
    Good thing they pulled all those Viacom clips from Youtube last few months, otherwise they might have been sued for, like, a billion dollars!

    Oh, wait.
    • Please: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:57AM (#18332325)
      Google, please drop all Viacom sites from google.com. After all, they hate all the free publicity and promotion you give them.
      • Re:Please: (Score:5, Funny)

        by ePhil_One (634771) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:12AM (#18332643) Journal
        Google, please drop all Viacom sites from google.com.

        Yes, Google should hold Viacom sites hostage until they give up their legal rights. I for one welcome our new Google overlords.

        • Hostage? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I wouldn't call it "hostage" because Google has absolutely no obligation to Viacom to provide them with search engine service.

          Personally, what *I* would be tempted to do would be to block anyone in Viacom's IP block from accessing Google at all. I'd say to do the same for YouTube, but they'd probably claim that was just to cover up the infringement, so it might be a bad idea.

          I mean, exactly what does Google owe Viacom, anyhow? They aren't the ones putting up these clips--users are. And Google has what mi
      • Re:Please: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ergo98 (9391) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:14AM (#18332679) Homepage Journal

        Google, please drop all Viacom sites from google.com. After all, they hate all the free publicity and promotion you give them.

        "Free" publicity?

        More accurately, people go to Google to search for stuff like Viacom shows. If Google were ever dumb enough (they aren't) to start self-censoring to penalize foes in other areas of their business, people wouldn't use Google. Google would be shooting themselves in the face to spite a pimple.

        And it isn't like this is unexpected. When YouTube was being woo'd, Mark Cuban was widely quoted for saying "Only a moron would buy YouTube" [huffingtonpost.com] (because of the huge potential lawsuit liability). Maybe a better statement would be "only a non-moron that has the cash to pay off the inevitable lawsuits", of which there are only a few companies, Google being one of them.
        • Re:Please: (Score:5, Funny)

          by russ1337 (938915) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:51AM (#18333455)
          >>> "Google would be shooting themselves in the face to spite a pimple".

          In this case, Google would be shooting themselves in the face to spite a large cancerous growth.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        People suggest this every time, and every time the same response is valid: That's not a good solution on Google's part, because it ends up negatively impacting Google.

        Tit for tat retribution really only works on the playground. And maybe in international spy rings.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tha_mink (518151)

          People suggest this every time, and every time the same response is valid: That's not a good solution on Google's part, because it ends up negatively impacting Google.

          I guess I agree with you but isn't that what Viacom is is doing. Basically, since the two couldn't come up with a deal they were both satisfied with, Viacom is basically taking their ball and going home. I mean, we've been reading about possible deals since Google bought YouTube. Plus, there's http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/08/06/business/go ogle.php [iht.com]this deal that they made in August with Google video. I agree they can't really remove Viacom from their apps but still, it would be nice for somebody to

          • Re:Please: (Score:4, Insightful)

            by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:07PM (#18333767)
            This move by Viacom is just a negotiating tactic, much like Cisco's against Apple over the iPhone name. Nothing to see here... Move Along...
            • by DrWho520 (655973)
              Yeah, nothing to see...ignore the $1,000,000,000,000.00 suit. Negotiation tactics are cruise missiles, not nukes.
              • Re:Please: (Score:5, Insightful)

                by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:32PM (#18334211)
                The dollar amount means NOTHING. They could have said $50,000,000 or $500,000,000,000 - the end result will be exactly the same, which will probably be that Google and Viacom will come to an agreement that google will do more to keep individuals from posting Viacom's crap, and Viacom gets to upload their crap to YouTube and stick advertising in it or offer it for sale (ala iTMS).

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  I think the consumer could end up worse for it.

                  For example. Take littlekuriboh [youtube.com]. For anyone who doesn't know him he created a parody called "Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series". Basically a poke at the stupid cartoon. Perfectly legal (as its parody and not a straight rip of the cartoon).

                  Extremely popular series as well, as soon as he posts an episode it goes to the top of the page.

                  However YouTube started nuking his episodes claiming copyright infringement. There are still a couple left on his account.

                  The end resul
        • Re:Please: (Score:5, Insightful)

          by julesh (229690) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:39PM (#18334327)
          Tit for tat retribution really only works on the playground. And maybe in international spy rings.

          Not to mention the Iterated Prisoners' Dilema.
    • Re:Whew (Score:5, Funny)

      by siDDis (961791) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:14PM (#18333901)
      What is Viacom? I can't google it...
  • Great! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by growse (928427) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:51AM (#18332187) Homepage

    Either:

    They'll settle, and millions of companies will line up to sue Google.

    or....

    Google will do an IBM/SCO on their ass and bankrupt them.

    Place your bets!

    • Re:Great! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by taskforce (866056) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:57AM (#18332317) Homepage
      Google may be rich, but they are nowhere near big enough to bankrupt Viacom. Viacom has a revenue of over $9.6 Billion USD, whilst Google has $10.6 Billion (according to Wikipedia), but this isn't the case of a smaller firm trying to sue a giant. If anything, Viacom, as a conglomerate, will probably have greater cash reserve and certainly has more assets which can be sold off in the event of it needing more cash.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Dan East (318230)
        Wikipedia, eh? There. Now Google has an extra $100 Billion revenue to work with.

        Dan East
      • Google may be rich, but they are nowhere near big enough to bankrupt Viacom. Viacom has a revenue of over $9.6 Billion USD, whilst Google has $10.6 Billion (according to Wikipedia), but this isn't the case of a smaller firm trying to sue a giant. If anything, Viacom, as a conglomerate, will probably have greater cash reserve and certainly has more assets which can be sold off in the event of it needing more cash.

        Google may be rich, but they are nowhere near big enough to bankrupt Viacom.

        You're right that Google can't bankrupt Viacom via a lawsuit. Viacom is a big company with a reasonably strong balance sheet. Viacom's market cap is about $27B and Viacom has roughly $700M in cash and $7.65B in debt [yahoo.com]. No where near as strong a balance sheet as Google, but plenty to fund a big lawsuit. That said, Google has a market cap of $138B, $11.2B in cash and zero debt [yahoo.com]. Google would have to take on debt or do a stock swap

    • by mapkinase (958129) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:59AM (#18332373) Homepage Journal
      GOOG: Mkt Cap: 139.97B
      VIA: Mkt Cap: 27.71B

      IBM: Mkt Cap: 141.50B
      SCOX: Mkt Cap: 21.23M
    • by loid_void (740416) *
      Actually, You Tube's business model is based on un-copyrighted material. Viacom has more to loose in the long run than a measly billion dollars as they don't understand the advertising model of the future: ie, they get free advertising. The other networks have figured this out and have joined the party. I place my bet on You Tube.
      • Re:Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by drooling-dog (189103) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:17AM (#18332727)
        Viacom, like other media companies, is mostly worried about two things: (1) losing control of the distribution of their product, and (2) losing control of distribution, period. The first concern is legitimate, but can easily be remedied by Google simply by not allowing Viacom's property to be posted to the site. The second concern has more to do with the fear of the rise of competitive distribution channels, and that exists even if these channels don't deal in copyrighted material. There is a finite pie of ear- and eyeball-hours out there, and if 30% of them are ever drawn to Creative Commons type stuff, that's 30% that isn't paying Viacom.
    • Re:Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Otter Escaping North (945051) <otter.escaping.n ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:08AM (#18332561) Journal

      Either:
      They'll settle, and millions of companies will line up to sue Google.
      or....
      Google will do an IBM/SCO on their ass and bankrupt them.

      Missing option. ;>

      This is a negotiation tactic being used to drive licensing talks that are going on behind the scene. My money's on that one.

      • You've got my vote.
        That or acquisition talks, but I think licensing is more likely (though it could lead to acquisition in the future, it often does when the licenses are wholesale like this).
        -nB
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aeryn_sunn (243533)
      Bankrupt them how? Viacom v. Google is about copyright infringement not patent and does not involve the complicated relationship between IBM, SCO, and a multitude of programmers and contracts...and not too mention linux code (or computer code for this and that), etc.

      If anything, a copyright case is far simplier than a patent as there is no question that Viacom owns the copyrights in question as opposed to a patent case where there is claim construction and questions of patent validity, which itself involve
  • 1 Billion bucks? Could you _please_ pick a number that is at least related to what you're suing over?
  • by omega9 (138280) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:52AM (#18332203) Homepage
    Why ask for one BILLION dollars, when you can ask for ONE MILLION DOLLARS?!?! MUHAHAHAHAhahahaha...ha..aha..*ahem*.
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:52AM (#18332205) Journal
    They should go for a zillion-gabillion dollars!

    Lawsuits should always be based on nice round numbers, not actual proven damages.
    • by monkeydo (173558)
      I doubt they are suing for a nice round number, and I'm sure whatever number it is, they have a basis for it. The press release simply says, "More than a billion dollars." Because press releases need to use round numbers. And whatever they are actually awarded if they win won't necessarily be based on what's alleged in the complaint, it will be based on whatever damages the jury or court finds they are entitled to.
  • All new... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jerry Coffin (824726)
    It's truly amazing how the fact that YouTube is now owned by a company with billions of dollars suddenly means that all the content is pirated. Apparently, before Google bought them, not a single clip was even slightly shady, but ever since they started to represent billions of dollars, every clip that's ever been shown is worthy of at least one lawsuit!
    • Re:All new... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mgblst (80109) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:30AM (#18332971) Homepage
      Wow, you should really change your argument to Mr Really Extreme guy. You sure have a way of presenting arguments in a balanced light, by present both cases in the most extreme possible. "So you either hate all children, and want them all tortured to death, or you love them and want the best for them, which is it?"

      not a single clip was even slightly shady
       
      Besides in your inane ramblings, where have you ever seen this before. Media companies have always wanted clips they consider their propery removed from youtube, and made a number of requests to do so, long before Youtube was bought by Google.

      every clip that's ever been shown is worthy of at least one lawsuit!
       
      And once again, who has ever said this? Nobody. Viacom want to be compensated for there clips making youtube money, which is what they do. Every clip shown makes google money.

      This is a law suit that has been spoiling to happen for a while now, and I think both concerned parties have prepared for this.
  • Chuckle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Billosaur (927319) *

    From the article:

    In a statement, Viacom lashed out at YouTube's business practices, saying it has "built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others' creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google."

    Isn't that what Viacom does for a living? It isn't people at Viacom writing and producing all this content -- it's the hard-working staffs of these shows, coming up with ideas, generating scripts, acting them out, putting them on tape/film. Viacom just sits there, puts them in the marketplace, and rakes in the advertising money.

    • Re:Chuckle (Score:5, Insightful)

      by growse (928427) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:58AM (#18332353) Homepage
      Not wanting to defent Viacom, but I'm sure they'll be fairly keen to point out that they actually pay their staff...
      • Re:Chuckle (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @01:38PM (#18335375)
        I'm sure nobody at Google works for free either. But Viacom wants Google to do its dirty work for free: examining video clips, digging up the relevant copyright information, contacting the owner of the copyright to determine whether it should be posted to YouTube or not, and removing the offending clips.

        Remember that while each media corporation is under the misguided assumption that they are the only folks who own the copyright on content, in truth, there are lots of clips on Google/YouTube that the copyright owner has posted legitimately, and many more clips where the copyright owner is unknown or cannot be located. Viacom wants to shift the burden of filling out DMCA takedown requests to Google, despite the fact that Congress (miraculously) realized that a hosting provider should not be responsible for vetting every piece of content that a user posts to their service.

        Viacom is in a far better position to take care of everything that comes before the deletion of actual infringing content. They are aware of what material they own the copyright to, they already know who owns the copyright on that material, and they already know that they don't want it on YouTube. They also have a legal remedy - a DMCA takedown notice - for having such material removed.

        If Google has to vet all of its content to make sure that Viacom doesn't hold the copyright, then they can't just stop with Viacom's content. They can't even stop with every ??AA member company's content. No, they have to establish the wishes of the copyright owner for every single piece of material on their site. And if Google loses, then every website that provides hosting space and shows advertising alongside it - Angelfire? Geocities? - has to do the same thing.

        That's why the DMCA requires takedown notices, that's why it absolves hosting providers of responsibility for vetting material that their users post to their services, and that's why Google is in the clear and Viacom will be ponying up their legal fees in a few years' time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by conradov (1026760)
      I didn't know YouTube was a lucrative business!
    • Whereas YouTube sits around producing content all day and gives all their ad money to the users!

      errr...wait...but then again they're also not suing anyone.

      • Free unlimited hosting for video content is more than enough compensation... let's not pretend gootube gives nothing back.
  • by boxlight (928484) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:54AM (#18332263)
    I'll probably get modded down for this, but I don't think it's right that Google is allowed to generate all that eyeball-driven advertising revenue by broadcasting other people's copyrighted video content.

    I like free video as much as the next guy, but people *own* this stuff. And Google does not.

    The billion dollar lawsuit looks good on them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      Although I think 1 Billion is a little steep, I think you are right. I don't think that a TV network would last 2 minutes if they just decided to play content that they hadn't paid for. I don't see why Google should be treated any differently. Just because they're on the internet, doesn't give them the right to just broadcast whatever they want.
    • I agree completely. Lovers of free video have options. I'd like to see more of them produce their own content that is slick enough to generate huge demand for that video and then release it for free on YouTube.

      That is more compelling than sitting in their parent's basement and whining for free access to the content Viacom has created.
    • by drooling-dog (189103) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:34AM (#18333059)
      You're right, of course, but sites like YouTube are a huge threat to the Big Media cartel regardless of whether they traffic in copyrighted material. A major barrier to entry in that industry is access to distribution channels: theaters, television and radio airtime, etc. It's like supermarket shelf space. That's why indy musicians and film producers have had such a hard time winning eyeballs regardless of the quality of their stuff. YouTube and sites like it bypass the gatekeepers and short-circuit the whole system; now just about anyone can reach the mass public if their creations catch a wave. Just as in the music industry, that scares the bejesus out of companies like Viacom because it strikes at the core of their business model.

      It wouldn't surprise me a bit if Viacom indirectly had people posting copyrighted material to YouTube as fast as Google can take it down. They need to attack the channel regardless, and to do that successfully they need a copyright case.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Furry Ice (136126)
        It would surprise me very much if Viacom was paying people to post their content to Youtube, simply because they don't need to. Everyone is doing it for them.

        As much as it's wonderful that indie directors and artists now have a distribution channel, people still wish to watch things that they like. And oftentimes what they like has had its copyright assigned to a large corporation. I would never personally post an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force to Youtube, but I *would* watch one that someone else had po
  • by twitter (104583) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:56AM (#18332303) Homepage Journal

    Once again, life imitates parody [theonion.com]. I did not know they were worth a billion dollars.

  • That this will be as productive as th 1.25 trillion dollar lawsuit that the RIAA has filed over allofmp3.com
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by richdun (672214) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:57AM (#18332321)
    (as of about the time I posted this)

    Google's market cap: $139.97 billion

    Viacom's market cap: $27.61 billion
    CBS' market cap: $24.38 billion (sorta kinda relevent here)

    I think it's just a little market cap envy. Next stop: Google buys Viacom?
  • by CSHARP123 (904951) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:59AM (#18332365)
    This copyright violation is going on with YouTube since before google acquired them. Why didn't Viacom act at that point in time and close the website. Since google has the money and I think this will be setteled out of court by google giving them some money to get away. In the future we can see some big payday for Viacom
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:59AM (#18332367)

    Their 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.


    Google: "No shit. Here's your billion, we've got a couple more to spare. Muh-huh-huh-ha."
  • What the (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tehwebguy (860335) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:00AM (#18332395) Homepage
    Don't Viacom know that their precious DMCA protects Google?
    • Re:What the (Score:5, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:14AM (#18332687) Journal
      Probably. And it appears to have been part of the intent of the DMCA. However the act was pretty badly drafted, and part of it does depend on whether Google is directly profitting from the infringement.

      Of course, in Youtube's favour, is the fact that the service clearly isn't intended as a vehicle for copyright infringement. Most of the material there is actually the home video stuff that the site is intended for, and they are making efforts to remove the material immediately.
      • Re:What the (Score:5, Interesting)

        by russotto (537200) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:47AM (#18333357) Journal
        The DMCA is badly drafted because the companies which wanted it -- content providers like Viacom -- deliberately had their lobbyists draft it that way. They expected to use the power of their corporate takedown-letter-writing department to shut down anything they didn't like. They didn't count on a service provider with the capacity to not only host enough content to give their takedown-letter department writer's cramp, but to actually be able to handle all those takedown letters without shutting down.
  • Common carrier (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anon-Admin (443764) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:03AM (#18332457) Homepage Journal
    (IANAL) I look at this and wonder is google will use the common carrier clause. By not monitoring and policing the content of the users they could well fall under the common carrier clause. This would mean that as a common carrier, they are not responsible for the content that is on there network. The end users would be responsible.

    I have worked at and run many ISP's, The lawyers ALWAYS insistent that any news feed be uncensored because the act of censoring or deleting any of the content could be used in court to show that we agreed with the content that remained. Thus we could be sewed for any illegal content that we missed.

    Just my .02c worth

  • old media logic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <<circletimessquare> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:05AM (#18332507) Homepage Journal
    old media fails it

    when linking to content, hosting content, etc., you generate buzz, hits, pr, etc.

    in other words, the more content you get out there, the cheaper you get it out there (hint: free), the more money you make: more traffic, more ad revenue, more awareness

    this is the future, and old media doesn't get it. by putting traffic stops at the doors to their content, by micromanaging who seems what and when, you don't preserve your revenue streams, you kill them by making getting to them too obscure and/ or difficult

    the guys who grew up on radio and television as their model just. don't. get. it.

  • by trudyscousin (258684) * on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:07AM (#18332527)
    In a statement, Viacom lashed out at YouTube's business practices, saying it has "built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others' creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google."

    But of course, Viacom would never, ever go after the fans, would they?
  • Understandable. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Erwos (553607) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:09AM (#18332575)
    I can understand Viacom's position here, and I don't think it's totally unjustified. That's not the same as "I totally agree with it", mind you, but I see where they're coming from. Google is using their copyrighted works to make money, and doing so without permission. Did said works get uploaded by others? Yes - but does this somehow absolve Google of wrong-doing?

    I think that last question is what's going to need to be answered legislatively and judicially over the next decade. It seems wrong that Google is profiting off Viacom's work without permission or license, yet more restrictions will hinder the development of some technologies (ala some of the proposed remedies to mass copyright infringement via P2P). This, of course, assumes there is not some sort of drastic change in how copyright is handled - which I'm sure is the solution many Slashdotters would prefer, but doesn't strike me as terribly likely in the current legislative climate.
    • Re:Understandable. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:51AM (#18333447) Journal
      When I send mix CD's full of copyrighted material via USPS to my friends, USPS is using those copyrighted works to make money and doing so without permission. Does that absolve the USPS of wrong-doing?
    • ISPs and P2P (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arevos (659374)
      If an ISP had a "per GB" pricing scheme, would you think that it would be justified for the entertainment industry to sue them from profiting from copyright infringement over P2P? If not, how is this different from YouTube? If so, does this mean you think ISPs should not have common carrier status?
  • If they didn't sue over this, Viacom was going to sue Google over the defamation inherent in their "don't be evil" motto. They still face possible pending charges under that from the RIAA; SCO; Microsoft; Halliburton; the Republican party; Al Qaeda; Dr. Evil, natch; and, oddly, Bono of U2 fame.
  • If Wikipedia cannot be sued [slashdot.org] then how can Google?

    IANAL; but to a layman the cases seem equivalent.
  • First of all let me start of by saying I think that this entire thing is stupid, and is purely out of greed and has nothing to do with some great goal of protecting ones work, but since that's not going to change, I have a question:

    If Google pay's that fee, which seems quite large, does that give then retroactive ownsership of all Viacom material?

  • supply and demand (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chinard (555270) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:15AM (#18332711)
    its all about availability of content.

    Viacom is doing NOTHING to make this content as available as it has become in youtube.
    Maybe if they did, and put in their own advertising, they'd be making the ad dollars off this content instead of loosing it to youtube.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well, the Comedy Central site does have a pretty large amount of video up, with their own advertisements. That has to be pretty annoying to them, that they put up their own infrastructure for web video, yet everyone is watching the same clips on YouTube and Google is getting the advertising $. Plus it's the same content they are trying to sell over Windows and Xbox Live.
  • by realinvalidname (529939) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:39AM (#18333181) Homepage

    ...the entertainment industry's lawsuits are way more interesting than their TV shows, movies, and records? Maybe they should formally change their business model and go primarily into lawsuits as a creative medium.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:52AM (#18333479)
    First Viacom broadcasts it, over public airwaves, for free, as in beer.

    But when it's posted for free, as in beer, they sue.

    There's something rotten in more than Denmark here.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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