ARS Technica dug through the unsealed court documents in the $1 billion lawsuit between Viacom and YouTube, and reports Viacom found various e-mails in which YouTube executives acknowledged that they were profiting from copyrighted material. Two of these e-mails reveal that in 2005 and 2006, as much as 80 percent of the site's traffic originated from pirated videos:
"Chen twice wrote that 80 percent of user traffic depended on pirated videos. He opposed removing infringing videos on the ground that 'if you remove the potential copyright infringements... site traffic and virality will drop to maybe 20 percent of what it is.' Karim proposed they 'just remove the obviously copyright infringing stuff.' But Chen again insisted that even if they removed only such obviously infringing clips, site traffic would drop at least 80 percent. ('if [we] remove all that content[,] we go from 100,000 views a day down to about 20,000 views or maybe even lower')."
"A month later, [YouTube manager Maryrose] Dunton told another senior YouTube employee in an instant message that 'the truth of the matter is probably 75-80 percent of our views come from copyrighted material.' She agreed with the other employee that YouTube has some 'good original content' but 'it’s just such a small percentage.'"