Viacom has made good on its promise to sue YouTube and its owner Google. The owner of MTV and Nickelodeon has launched a $1 billion lawsuit for "massive intentional copyright infringement".

The complaint contends that "160,000 unauthorised clips of Viacom programming" are available on YouTube. The suit maintains these clips have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times between them.

Viacom says its intent is to compel YouTube and Google to comply with copyright laws. The papers were filed in the Southern District of New York for "massive intentional copyright infringement of Viacom's entertainment properties".

"YouTube is a significant, for-profit organisation that 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," said a statement released by Viacom.

"Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws."

Viacom contends that YouTube 's strategy has been to "avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site". This, the statement says, generates "significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden - and high cost - of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement".

Viacom's statement says YouTube's behaviour is in "stark contrast" to other content distributors, who it says have "concluded agreements" to make content available legally.

Viacom says YouTube and Google are taking "the fruit of our efforts without permission and destroying enormous value in the process".

The corporation says it has attempted to negotiate with YouTube and its parent, but that it has been ignored. Viacom asked YouTube to remove 100,000 clips in Febuary.

Several key partnerships have recently been struck allowing YouTube to carry legal content, including one with the BBC .