Monday, June 28, 2010

Follow-Up to the Viacom v. YouTube Decision

On Friday, I did a post on the Viacom v. YouTube & Google case. A federal judge ruled in favor of YouTube last Wednesday. Tara asked two questions: (1) Do you think the decision went the right way? and (2) Do you think this will affect authors?

Let me take the second question first today. We'll do the first question tomorrow.

Yes, Tara, I do believe the decision went the right way.

Regular readers of this blog know that I keep castigating the Big Six New York houses for not be willing to adapt quickly enough to the changing landscape of the publishing industry.

I happened to see a rerun of the 1993 film Jurassic Park on network television recently. In that movie Jeff Goldblum, playing scientist Ian Malcolm, says something like this: "If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers ..."

I would argue that the same thing can be said of technological progress. In its lawsuit, Viacom tried to make the case that YouTube was created for the express purpose of violating copyright.

Even if that's true, it no longer matters. Three months ago, the web traffic monitor Alexa estimated that YouTube is the third most visited website on the Internet, after Google and Facebook.

Does Viacom seriously think they can contain THAT kind of energy?? And even if they could, another hundred websites doing the exact same thing would immediately spring up to replace YouTube. Watching video clips is now a part of the Internet user psyche. Hell, one of our favorite things to do every Saturday morning is to go to the Purina Animal All Stars website here and spend 30 minutes giggling over stupid pet videos.

And, yes, I do recognize the difference between a homemade pet video and a clip from Iron Man, but my point is that Internet users and cell phone users and iPad users are now accustomed to uploading and downloading content. I'd argue that, instead of suing YouTube, Viacom needs to figure out how to make YouTube work for them.

What do I mean by making YouTube work for them? I just checked YouTube (which I have bookmarked on my laptop) to see what I'd get if I searched for Twilight Eclipse. I found both of the official movie trailers. One has had over 8 million hits and the second had over 6 million hits. You can't beat that for pre-release publicity.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law on October 28, 1998, for the express purpose of addressing online copyright infringement. It promises a "safe harbor" to Internet service providers who act promptly to remove content once they receive a notice of infringement from the copyright holder or his representative.

Viacom tried to trip YouTube up by submitting 100,000 such take-down notices on one day--February 2, 2007. YouTube responded by removing almost all of the offending videos within 24 hours.

Viacom then tried to argue that YouTube should be able to recognize infringing content and take it down without receiving such a notice. YouTube responded that they have no way to know that the video wasn't posted by the copyright holder or his representative unless informed to that effect. The judge agreed.

My message to Viacom is: Get real, guys. Work with YouTube/Google just like CBS, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and the BBC are already doing. Figure out how to monetize YouTube to your advantage.

And quit wasting money on lawyers and court fees trying to stop the tide from coming in.

No comments: