Viacom v. YouTube: Busting a Precedent?

viacom_v_youtube.gifViacom recently amended it $1 Billion lawsuit against YouTube (Google) for copyright infringement which it filed last year. Google claims that Viacom is trying to overturn precedent by making carriers and hosting providers liable for what their users post or transmit.

Viacom claims it has found over 150,000 instances of copyright infringing material on YouTube, and that YouTube has done little or nothing about them.

Google counters that it has assists in all copyright infringement claims, and follows the DMCA faithfully.

Neither side looks like it will back down, and neither can really. From Viacom’s perspective, content is their business, and every instance of infringement threatens their basic business model. Google’s claims are that it’s not their fault, and they are doing a reasonable job combating the problem. So far, no technology has yet been invented to provide a sure-fire method of attacking this problem. This is a big rumble.

If Viacom wins, it will have a chilling effect on the Internet and so-called user-generated content. Eventually, Big Media will become so litigious, no one can even mention Futurama in an email for fear of setting off the infringement alarm on some lawyer’s desk in New York or L.A.

If Google wins, precedent is preserved, but Big Media will become even more paranoid, and might start circling the wagons against new technologies. And to some degree that’s a natural reflex.

Personally, I have a problem with people posting entire episodes of shows – it’s not defensible. That’s stealing, and certainly threatens the money supply of those companies that produce such things.

However, snippets (how long is a snippet?) serve to create enthusiasm and product interest for a show. It’s called marketing. As example, I have seen snippets from the Family Guy episode “Blue Harvest,” which is a brilliant Star Wars parody. I must tell you, those few clips definitely made me want to buy the DVD. I was also totally unaware of it’s existence before I stumbled across them on YouTube. Or instead, I should keep my money and punish myself for viewing infringing materials online?

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