By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Even courtroom adversaries can be partners in the nascent online movie rental business.
YouTube announced a movie rental partnership with Paramount Pictures on Wednesday, despite the online video website's long-running litigation with Paramount parent company Viacom Inc.
YouTube said it would offer online rentals of nearly 500 Paramount films, including "Hugo" and "The Godfather," rounding out its growing catalog of feature-length movies.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed and it was not immediately clear why the two companies, whose parent companies have sparred in court for years, decided to put their differences aside for this licensing agreement.
Viacom is currently seeking to overturn its defeat in a landmark $1 billion lawsuit in which the media conglomerate charged YouTube and parent company Google Inc with "massive" copyright infringement.
Viacom alleged in its 2007 suit that many of its programs, including "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "South Park," and "SpongeBob SquarePants," have been illegally uploaded on YouTube and that YouTube and Google executives knew about it but did nothing to stop it.
The case has been closely-watched as a test of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 federal law making it a crime to produce technology to circumvent anti-piracy measures, and limiting liability of online service providers for copyright infringement by users.
YouTube, the world's most popular online video website, streams 4 billion videos every day and its users upload more than 60 hours of video to the site every minute. Although much of the content on YouTube consists of home videos that are free to watch, YouTube has increasingly added professionally-produced content, some of it available to rent for a fee.
The Paramount deal means that YouTube now has movie rental deals with five of the six major film studios, as well as more than ten independent film studios, giving it access to a catalog of nearly 9,000 films.
Consumers can rent the films, generally for 24 hours or 48 hours, for anywhere from $2.99 to $3.99.
The Paramount movies, which include recent releases and classics, will be available in the United States and Canada over the next few weeks. Consumers can rent the movies on the YouTube website, or on Google Play, Google's online storefront for music, games, movies and other types of media.
(Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Mark Potter)